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Football defense looks to build on new talent

The defensive line coach will continue to rotate players into the game to ‘build camaraderie’

The football team’s defensive unit has a lot to live up to after last year’s squad allowed the fewest points per game in the Ivy League. But the lineup has retained some key players from a year ago and a crop of new faces are poised to keep the defense at the top of the league.

Anchoring the defense will be defensive end and co-captain Michael Yules ’14. The preseason All-Ivy selection spent much of last season in opposing teams’ backfields, registering 15 tackles for loss to rank 13th in the country. Opposite Yules will be end John Bumpus ’14, who made the most of his time as a reserve last season with two sacks and three tackles for loss.

Two newcomers to the starting lineup — Brett Polacek ’14 and Ludovic Richardson ’16 — will plug the interior defensive line. The duo saw considerable action last season, racking up 22 tackles and four sacks.

Defensive line coach Neil McGrath P’12 pushes his units to the top of the league every year, partly because of his technique of rotating several players into the game. This technique develops young players and “builds camaraderie” on the line, Yules said.

The second rotation on the line will feature Donald Sproal ’14, Zach Sparber ’15, Ryan Davenport ’15 and Jacob Walther ’16.

Opponents will likely find little relief in the second tier of the defense,  headed up by All-Ivy selection Ade Oyalowo ’14. A versatile weapon on the outside, Oyalowo ranks third on the team in both tackles and interceptions.

“He is probably one of the most remarkable players I’ve ever seen,” Yules said. “He hits harder than anyone, and he runs around so fast sometimes you are worried he is going to hurt someone.”

Roaming opposite Oyalowo at outside linebacker is Zach Lattrell ’14.

The task of replacing last season’s All-Ivy team captain Stephen Zambetti ’13 at inside linebacker will fall to Daniel Giovacchini ’15 — a returning starter whom Yules described as an “animal” — and Xavior Russo ’15.

Head Coach Phil Estes said the second line of the defense may be young, but its members are “experienced and talented.”

“I feel very confident in our linebackers,” he said.

While All-Ivy defensive back A.J. Cruz ’13 left some big shoes to fill, Emory Polley ’14 appears primed to step right in. Polley intercepted four passes last season and tallied 11 defections, leading the Ivy League.

“The biggest thing that we have to do is replace Cruz at the corner spot, and Emory Polley is as good as any corner in the league,” Estes said.

While Polley locks down the opponent’s top receiver, Jay Davis ’15 and Jacob Supron ’15 are competing for the second corner spot. Eric Armagost ’15 will start at the safety position.

Even with last season’s success, Yules said the bar is set higher this season.

“This defense’s goal is to be the best that we’ve ever had,” he said. “Last year’s defense was outstanding … the expectation is to pick up right where we left off.”


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