What to watch: Defensive line looks for less experienced players to have big impact

Published 4:38 pm Friday, July 29, 2016

Much like the linebackers on the Bearcat football team, the defensive line will be returning a small number of starters and demand a number of less experienced players to step up in the trenches.

“We are starting all over from scratch,” said defensive line coach Brian McCorkle about the two tackle slots. “We graduated a three-time All-Region in Calvin Isom. There are four or five guys in the middle there trying to get those two slots.”

Seniors Martavious Flowers and Terrel Byrd are upperclassman that were beat out previous seasons, but getting their chance to play this year. Flowers is the most experienced with some playing time his junior year, but McCorkle said the plus side is they are older kids who are familiar with the system.

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“They have been in our program,” McCorkle said. “They understand what we expect already. It’s not like these are true-blue sophomores who haven’t seen the Friday night lights yet. These are guys who have been on the field some already. In their case, we had some really good players in front of them.”

Rising junior Ryan Adams, who was previously an offensive lineman, was moved to defensive tackle this summer. McCorkle noted Adams’ size and strength will be good for clogging up running lanes.

Zion Andrews, another rising junior, is also battling for a starting position on the defensive line.

“These are upperclassmen playing in there,” McCorkle said. “They are going to have to step up and get the job done. They will have to contribute.”

Rising Junior Devin Morris brings the most experience to the defensive line. He started in 13 games last season as a defensive end, racking up 30 solo tackles and two sacks.

“He is awfully strong, and he is quick,” McCorkle said. “He plays hard and gets after it. That led to him playing a lot last year. We had a rotation, and he was one of our main guys in that rotation. He understands football and what the offensive linemen are trying to do to him.”

Several players are battling for the other end. Rising junior Clifford Kinder is quick and strong, but is competing with sophomore Roman Harrison, who possesses a ton of natural ability, according to defensive ends coach Blake Cecil.

“I expect great things out of Harrison, this year and next year,” Cecil said. “He is extremely explosive, very strong and very physical. He doesn’t shy away from contact at all.”

Cecil said Kinder began shining on the scout team toward the end of last season and has seen massive improvements from him, and the other defensive ends, in the weight room this offseason. Rising senior Tyler Beaty was injured for most of last season, but is battling for the defensive end position as well.

“I feel like these guys can be playmakers for us this season,” Cecil said.

The Bainbridge Bearcats will scrimmage at Lowndes at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, followed by another scrimmage at Godby (Florida) on Thursday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m. The season kicks off at home against Lee County at Centennial Field at 7:30 p.m.

Check back next issue for a preview on the quarterbacks.