WASHINGTON - The Georgetown University football team opened preseason camp earlier this week and is working hard toward its season opener at Campbell University on September 9. Throughout the month of August, we will take an in-depth look at each of the team's position groups, with this edition featuring the defensive line.
Georgetown is returning eight starters to a defense that led the Patriot League in scoring defense last year (23.3 ppg). The defensive line was a catalyst, ranking third in the league in rushing defense, allowing 155.8 yards on the ground per game and helping the defense rank second in the entire country in red zone defense, as opponents scored on just 29-of-45 red zone attempts.
"I've seen a more aggressive mentality, which is something we started working on this spring," said assistant coach Kellen Pruitt of what he has seen in the first week of camp. "We always hope to improve, but we're just focused right now on winning the smaller battles. I'm trying to get these guys to understand that it's not just what you learn, but how you apply it and the manner in which you apply it. We are taking everything we learn and just cranking it up a notch from last year and years past."
While the Hoyas lost First Team All-Patriot League selection Hunter Kiselick (71 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 4 blocked kicks) and Phil Novacki (37 tackles, 6.5 sacks) to graduation, the defensive line will be bolstered by five returners who were big contributors in 2016. Junior Brennan Sawicki (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Scioto) led all of the returners with 39 tackles a year ago, including a critical sack against Marist. Sophomores Marquis Parris (Atlanta, Ga./Tri Cities) and Khristian Tate (Warner Robins, Ga./Covenant Academy) each had 30 and 22 tackles, respectively, during their freshman campaign and combined for 8.0 tackles-for-loss (TFL) and 2.0 sacks, while Bryan Jefferson (Vienna, Va./Annandale) returns for a fifth year after compiling 28 tackles, 1.5 TFL and a sack.
Seniors Kendall Catching (Carrolton, Texas/Hebron) and Elijah English (Leesburg, Fla./South Sumter), along with junior Mike Taylor III (Shreveport, La./CE Byrd), are three other returners who saw game action on defense last season. Catching appeared in all 11 games and registered 14 tackles, while English totaled two tackles in four games played. Taylor also played in just four games, compiling four tackles. Junior Patrick Pastore (Albany, N.Y./Christian Brothers Academy) also joins the list of returners and has impressed Pruitt with his determination as he enters his third season on the Hilltop.
"We're hoping that the returners can take a step up," said Pruitt, who is in his second year at Georgetown and first season working with the defensive line. "We will definitely have a boost with the return of Bryan Jefferson, who should bring his experience and leadership into his fifth year. Plus we had some young guys last year -- in Marquis Parris and Khristian Tate - who we really hope to see more on the field. I think those guys give us an edge that we haven't had before. And with Mike Taylor being healthy, that gives us three players who can make a huge impact. When you have three players returning that can double their output of last year, it makes for a great line."
The Blue & Gray will also have the luxury of depth on the defensive line as five freshmen - Owen Kessler (Westfield, N.J./Westfield), Zach Jewell (Centreville, Va./Westfield), Jack Metz (Dallas, Texas/Jesuit College Prep), Duval Paul (Lynn, Mass./Everett) and Kingsley Umemba (Chelsea, Mass./Buckingham Browne & Nichols) -- will look to make an impact during their first seasons in a Georgetown uniform.
"The young guys still have some things they need to learn, but Duval Paul has been one of the standouts of the freshman class," Pruitt said. "He has the physical ability and the type of mentality that we want on the defensive line."