If defenses win championships, defensive lines make defenses.
Consider the job of a defensive lineman: overcome the block of at least one man determined not to let you move, rush the passer after discarding the previously mentioned beast, make sure a running back doesn’t slip by with the ball, and occupy enough offensive men so that the linebackers behind you are free to make plays.
And yet there is no glory in the position.
If Cornell hopes to be successful this year, its fortunes may rise and fall with the play of its defensive line.
This group comprises seniors Tom Crone and Jay Bolton, juniors George Paraskevopoulos, Rich Zacek and Bryan Sacco, sophomores Jesse Rodriguez and Bill Goodrich and freshman Matt Stone.
“We feel good about six to seven of those guys, and I think that is about right,” head coach Pete Mangurian said.
The primary goal of the d-line this year has been defined:
“We know we have to stop the run. It’s a big point of emphasis,” Sacco said.
And this focus on stopping the run is justified when looking at last year’s statistics. The Red allowed 174.6 yards per game on the ground, including 4.4 yards per rush in the 1999 campaign.
In order to stop this assault on the ground, Mangurian has more size in the middle of the group this year. Paraskevopoulos is listed at 289 pounds, Stone at 255 and Goodrich at 245. The plan is that these players will effectively clog the middle.
“This year we have some bigger guys at the tackle positions, it’s definitely a change from last year where we were a little lighter inside,” Sacco said.
“George Paraskevopoulos, Goodrich, Rodriguez, and Matt Stone are some young, big guys to play in the middle of the defense,” Mangurian added.
On the outside, Crone, Bolton and Sacco will be hoping to improve upon the Red’s 28 sacks from a year ago.
“We have to get to the quarterback and make big plays,” Sacco said of the defensive ends. “We have to continue with the pass rush. I think we look good with that.”
Mangurian is expecting big things out of the outside group as well.
“Obviously, there is a lot of experience there with Bolton, Sacco, and Crone,” he said. “I think we have quality depth at the end spot with Bolton, Sacco and Crone so we can mix and match and not leave anybody out there all day.”
Though this group may still be a little undersized in the league, it has shown the heart and desire of a champion.
“Over half the team stayed up here in Ithaca this summer to workout with [strength and conditioning coach Tom] Howley,” Sacco said. “On Friday mornings we would be up here doing eight 300-yard sprints.”
And this conditioning could prove to be a key for the Red. In last year’s campaign, Cornell outscored Ivy League opponents by 27 points in the fourth quarter, including holding Brown and Princeton scoreless in the final frame. This allowed Cornell a chance for those three memorable come-from-behind wins in 1999.
“By the third or fourth quarter our speed should take over and the conditioning should set in. When [our opponents] are dying, we should be kicking into third and fourth gear,” Sacco said.
So if the Red is going to chase an Ivy title in November, the job of the defensive line is clear.
“It starts up front, we have to win the line of scrimmage. If we can win that battle up front, we can dictate how the game is played.”
Archived article by J.V. Anderton