‘Defense wins championships.’ It”s a montra coaches have used thousands of times, and if the Red has any notion of making a title run this season, the last line of defense will have to prove it can play with the best.
‘The secondary is one of the most untested parts of our defense,’ said head coach Jim Knowles “87.
Yet don”t let that statement fool you — this unit has plenty of leadership and some very skillful newcomers.
At the cornerback spots will be sophomore Matt Grant and senior Sean Nassoiy. What these two lack in size they make up for with speed. Grant, who played running back and wide receiver last season, is one of the untested players Knowles spoke of, but Nassoiy is definately a leader in the secondary. Last season, in just seven games, he racked up 38 tackles, three pass deflections, and a 38-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against Colgate.
Yet most of the leadership in the secondary will come from the strong and weak side safeties, a pair of seniors — Brad Kitlowski and Joel Sussman. Kitlowski, who moved from the outside linebacker spot where he was a two-time honorable mention All-Ivy selection, was second on the squad in tackles last season, notching 71, to go along with his five tackles for a loss and one sack.
Sussman, a second-team All-Ivy pick last season, also moved from his linebacker spot to play weakside safety, or ‘Whip’. He missed all of last season due to an injury, but has recovered well and looks to regain his form from his sophomore season, when he led the Red with 90 tackles in 10 games.
Both of the safeties are given every opportunity to be aggressive in Knowles” defense, as each will be blitzing quite a bit.
‘We”re going to give these guys a chance to make plays for us,’ Knowles said.
Both of these safeties, who will be used as run-stoppers and blitzers first, and in pass coverage second, will get deep-coverage help from junior free safety Kevin Rex.
‘[Rex] is tall, rangy, and he”ll lay a lick on you,’ Knowles said. ‘But we”ll really need him to step up for us.’
Last season Rex saw action in all 10 games for the Red and made 22 stops, including two for a loss. This season Rex will be called upon to start and make sure that the deep threat on other squads gets shutdown.
‘You cannot give up the long bomb,’ Knowles said. ‘It happens, we all know it happens sometimes. But it can”t happen on a consistent basis because it really demoralizes a defense.’
Yet the five starters won”t be the only ones called upon to break up potential big plays. Rex will be backed up by senior Nate Tarsi who played in all 10 games last season, making eight tackles, while freshman Michael Boyd and junior Jeff Hahn will backup Sussman and Kitlowski, respectively. Hahn, who also made the switch to safety from linebacker, played in every game and made 15 tackles.
When Grant and Nassoiy need a blow, the Red will turn to a pair of young corners and a veteran — freshman Chi Chi Ibegbu, sophomore Jarin Jackson, and senior David Blanks. The 5″10′ Jackson saw action in a pair of games for the Red last season and will be a speedy addition in pass coverage. Blanks provides leadeship off the bench, as he has three seasons under his belt. Last season, he played in nine games and made eight tackles.
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor