Defensive line remains bright spot for football

Defensive line remains bright spot for football

Defensive line remains bright spot for football
September 16
00:14 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

The defensive line of the Mean Green football team has had to deal with challenges throughout this young season. It’s had to replace four starters from last year and get over the loss of its old position coach, who retired.

But despite the challenges, the line has become a key part of a defense that is fifth in the nation in turnovers and 22nd in run defense.

Kevin Patrick is the new defensive line coach. Head coach Dan McCarney said he likes what he has seen from the unit so far.

“He is doing a really great job with those guys and he wants his defensive linemen playing like he did when he was one,” McCarney said. “Tough, hard-nosed, relentless, whoever is there you make plays, and so far we have made some real strides in the defensive line.”

The results have been mixed for the defensive line through three games this season. In the game against Southern Methodist University, the defensive line forced four sacks and two turnovers, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

It was a different result for the team during last Thursday’s game against Louisiana Tech University, in which the defense only registered two sacks. Despite the recent off game, McCarney said he sees some positives from his defensive line.

“They are getting better and despite two losses, we are still No. 1 in rush defense in our conference, No. 2 in turnovers and No. 3 in total defense and No. 5 in sacks,” McCarney said. “So with a lot of young guys out there and a lot of guys who haven’t played much and guys that haven’t played at all, we’re still doing some positive things.”

McCarney thinks one reason the defensive line is playing better is because of the challenge he gave some of the players in the program in a meeting last winter after the season ended. The players he talked to were going into their third year with the team. McCarney told them he expected more out of them.

“I told them, ‘you guys have either done nothing on game day or done very little,’” McCarney said. “‘You were brought here to this program to help win games on Saturdays.’”

McCarney said he told them they were doing everything right off the field, but they needed to step up their play on the field. 

“All those guys are starting to do something to really help us,” McCarney said. “One of the reasons I think this unit is going forward is guys were tired of not doing anything.”

One of the defensive linemen who McCarney said has turned around in his play is junior defensive end Chad Polk. Polk is tied for second on the team in sacks with 1.5.

“He is small, he’s short, he’s undersized, but when the ball is snapped he plays with that relentless motor and he’s got that Tasmanian devil attitude going 100 mph,” McCarney said. “I am really proud of him, and he has really improved a lot.”

Polk said that a lot of the praise of the team’s success has to go to defensive line coach Patrick.

“He tells us that we have to practice like we play, and then every practice we have to go out and do better than the last one,” Polk said.

Polk also pointed out that the leadership from the two seniors on the line, Alexander Lincoln and Daryl Mason, has also been beneficial to the line’s rise to success.

“They push us every day, and I want to go out and do my best for their senior season,” Polk said.

Polk isn’t the only one who has improved his play this season. Redshirt sophomore Jarrian Roberts leads the team in sacks with two and returned a fumble for a touchdown against SMU. He said the defensive mentality is simple.

“Stop the run on the way to the quarterback,” Roberts said. “That is how we do things.”

Roberts said he enjoys playing with a guy like Polk, whom he said he would take over any defensive end in college football today. They always seem to meet each other on the field near the quarterback.

“We make plays off each other,” Roberts said. “Not just him, but everyone on the defensive line.”

Featured Image: Junior defensive end Chad Polk slams into Southern Methodist University’s quarterback, which forces a fumble. UNT scooped up the live ball and ran it in for a touchdown on Sept. 6. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

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