Trying to emulate Alabama is inarguably a good strategy for any college football coach.
Cornell football head coach David Archer ’05 is doing it at quarterback, and he hopes to channel his inner Nick Saban once again when it comes to the line of scrimmage.
Saban, Archer said, analyzes the line of scrimmage at the beginning of games and can often tell, based on the offensive and defensive lines, which team is in control. For Archer, a returning group of defensive linemen has him confident his squad can overpower the opposition on the defensive side of the ball.
“I was doing the same thing [as Saban]. Early on, I [said] ‘oof,’” Archer said of his impression of his team’s line play early on. “If I were to watch the line of scrimmage now, that has to be something that at the start of each game I say, ‘Yup, we’re going to control that.’”
Anchored by junior Jordan Landsman, who had 36 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss last season, the Red’s starting defensive line figures to be made up of four experienced players: Landsman, junior William Baker and seniors Mason Banbury and Cyrus Nolan, the latter of which led the team with 4.5 sacks last season.
Landsman and Baker both started all 10 games last year. Nolan and Branbury had five and four starts, respectively.
“I feel [the same as] when I look at my offensive line. OK, this should look good,” Archer said his two line units. “We should be able to play with people at the line of scrimmage.”
Juniors and seniors make up the defensive line’s depth past starters, too. Senior Chase Wickenheiser is back after undergoing surgery for a pair of torn labrum. He missed all of last season but played in all but one game in 2016. Senior Victor Olapinsin and junior Michael Gillooley are also set to return after both suffered ACL tears last season.
The defensive linemen will hope to play a role in reversing what plagued the Red’s defense in 2017: preventing the run. Opponents rushed for 166.1 yards per game against Cornell last year, the worst mark in the Ivy League. But the Red’s 24 sacks in 2017 were good enough for a top-four finish in the Ancient Eight.
Archer said his veteran leadership and defensive line depth give him confidence heading into the season.
“I feel like the roster has been developed so much over the last couple of years,” he said. “I feel like we are really strong in a lot of positions. I feel like we have to go out and play now and produce.”