Sophomore Roosevelt Nix gets so much attention at the defensive line position that it is easy to not realize how talented the teammates who line up beside him are.
The defensive line is so talented as a whole that Brian George, Kent State defensive line coach, said this is the one of the best and deepest defensive lines he has ever coached.
“I’ve had some very talented individuals, guys who are playing in the NFL right now, but collectively, we’re really good,” George said.
Coach Darrell Hazell credits the defensive line as the deepest position on the field. Lee Stalker, senior defensive lineman and a team captain, said the Flashes are so deep at defensive line that the team hardly misses a step when a backup takes the place of a starter on the field.
“I say the running backs are deep, but they’re still young and play young,” Hazell said. “All the defensive linemen can play.”
The Flashes (0-1) took 11 defensive linemen to Alabama and all saw time on the field. Though it may not have shown against the Crimson Tide’s talent, the ability to play so many defensive linemen will give the Flashes a huge advantage this season.
“If you can keep rolling guys in in the first three quarters, the fourth quarter has those better guys in and they’re fresh,” Hazell said. “If the opposing team is playing one offensive line, you naturally have a huge advantage. It creates depth and camaraderie. Guys now prepare harder because they know they may play.”
George said the defensive line is always together, on and off the field. This close bond also translates into their play on the football field.
Stalker said sometimes a player can use hand signals or just a look to let the other players know what he is going to do.
“We know each other and each other’s tendencies,” Stalker said. “You know what the guy next to you is going to do and his strengths.”
Hazell said the linemen are vocal and often tease each other about their respective strengths. For instance, senior nose guard Ishmaa’ily Kitchen is called the screen master.
“He can sniff a screen out before the ball is even snapped,” Hazell laughed. “To hear the other players talk about him like that is kind of funny.”
Stalker and George both said they look at this defensive line and see great possibilities.
“There’s a lot of great guys who can hands down play,” Stalker said. “A lot of guys came in that if I would have that athletic ability when I first came in here as a freshman or sophomore, I would kill for. We have a great season ahead of us as long as we keep working and playing hard as a team.”
Contact A.J. Atkinson at [email protected]