September 13, 2007

Blessing Makes a Name for Himself

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How do you replace a combined 57 unassisted tackles, 59 assisted tackles and 5.5 sacks?
This was the problem facing football head coach Jim Knowles ’87 going into last season, as he had to deal with the graduation of Patrick Potts ’06 and Joel Sussman ’06, the two starting linebackers in Cornell’s 4-2-5 scheme.
Fortunately for the Red, there were two more than capable replacements waiting in the wings, as senior Ryan Blessing, along with classmate Doug Lempa, anchored the linebacker position, which consequently became one of the team’s biggest strengths. This year should be no different, as Blessing looks forward to once again teaming up with Lempa to wreak havoc in the middle.
“I think this year all of us are a lot more comfortable,” Blessing said. “Most of the players are returning and have a year under our belts at least. I think everyone is fairly confident and comfortable with our whole defensive scheme right now.”
In addition, this will be the fourth season running Knowles’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme. That experience will be crucial for the defense’s success this season.
“I think we have mastered it,” Blessing said. “We are really confident with the whole defensive scheme. We have an aggressive game plan going forward. All the experience we have had in this defense, we are comfortable with it now.”
Not only a run-stopper, Blessing is also a quarterback’s nightmare. His five sacks last season was a team high, and given the strength of Cornell’s defensive secondary, he aims to repeat that number this year.
“With our blitz packages and everything that we run … we have to learn the blitzes and take a lot the pressure off the secondary,” Blessing said. “We take pride in putting pressure on other teams’ passing games through blitzes.”
In addition to leading Cornell in sacks, the senior’s 70 tackles last season was also the highest number on the squad. In one of Blessing’s strongest games of the year, the Oneida, N.Y., native notched two sacks and nine tackles to help lead Cornell to a 28-25 win over Dartmouth.
On the season, Blesssing ended up 15th in the Ivy League in tackles and seventh in sacks. For his efforts, Blessing was named honorable mention All-Ivy.
Despite his prowess as a starter last season, Blessing played sparingly in his first year at Cornell, only recording three total tackles. As a sophomore, though, he began to make more of an impact. He acted as a reserve linebacker and was also an impact player on special teams. In the 2005 season opener against Bucknell, Blessing notched the first sack of his collegiate career. It would be the first of many to come.