Over the next couple of weeks, the Catamount Sports Network and CatamountSports.com will feature positional previews of the 2015 Catamount football team. Each feature will contain the position write-ups from the 2015 Western Carolina media guide, and Catamount Sports Network All-Access video highlights and interviews with the position coach and student-athletes.
2015 WCU Football Position-by-Position Preview: the Defensive Line:Though it may not immediately jump off the stat sheet initially, Western Carolina's defensive line made big strides in the improvement of the defense as a whole in 2014 as a part of defensive coordinator Shawn Quinn's system.
WCU's 2015 defensive line is senior-laden with three penciled in among the starting four. The line is bookended by senior defensive ends Caleb Hawkins and John McBeth, who are joined by redshirt senior Helva Matungulu at tackle to anchor the defensive front. That trio combined for 103 total tackles and 16 tackles for loss a season ago, highlighted by Hawkins' 54 tackle and team-leading 11.0 TFL totals in his All-SoCon season. Hawkins and McBeth have played in 34 and 33 games, respectively, with a combined 55 career starts while Matungulu has nine starts among his 21 career games.
Rounding out the expected starters at defensive tackle is sophomore Ezavian Dunn who recorded 19 stops in 12 games with seven starts in his freshman season.
The preseason two-deep includes sophomore Derrick Davis who was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team a year ago, at the tackle position. Redshirt junior Dylan Sluder (22 games played), sophomore Sheldon Kinard and second-year tackle Tyler Junius provide depth along the front line. WCU's back-ups at end include juniors Andrew Mayton (22 games played), Avery Worsham (24 games played) and Daniel Nash (23 games played), each with more than 20 games of playing experience.
Redshirt freshman Zachary Greene could factor into playing time at defensive end while redshirt freshman Phillips Marshall and converted linebacker Tommy Tate both move into a role to contribute at tackle.
Two new freshmen from the 2015 signing class join the fold in Tra'von Ricketts (Pilot Mountain, N.C.) and Myreon Bennett (Augusta, Ga.).
Additional Defensive Line Notes:
Western Carolina's average height along the defensive line is 6.19 feet tall while the average weight is 260.83 pounds;
A combined 21 of WCU's 62 tackles for loss in 2014 came from the defensive line including 11.0 by Caleb Hawkins, the most among returning players ... Six of WCU's 13 sacks came from the defensive front including a team-high tying three by Hawkins.
WCU Football 2015 Position-by-Position Preview (tentative schedule):
Offensive Line - WATCH
Defensive Line - ABOVE
Wide Receivers - Aug. 13
Linebackers - Aug. 17
Running Backs - Aug. 18
Defensive Backs - Aug. 20
Tight Ends - Aug. 24
Special Teams - Aug. 25
Quarterbacks - Aug. 27