Aug. 12, 2016
WASHINGTON - Each new season brings questions of how the Georgetown University football team’s defense will replace All-Patriot League performers and statistical DI FCS leaders at critical positions. This season is no different as the Hoyas need to fill holes at linebacker left by First Team All-Patriot League linebacker Matt Satchell and at cornerback with the graduation of Ettian Scott, who led Division I FCS with 19 passes defended.
The Blue & Gray have answered similar questions in each of the past six seasons and are in position to once again thrive on the defensive side of the ball with seven players with starting experience returning at each level of the defense under Head Coach Rob Sgarlata and defensive coordinator Luke Thompson.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The Hoyas lose starting defensive tackle Dezmond Richardson, but return a strong core of interior lineman led by seniors Bryan Jefferson (Vienna, Va./Annandale) and Hugh Masterson (Invernees, Ill./Saint Viator), who both played in all 11 games and sophomore Brennen Sawicki (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Scioto), who earned All-Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors after a 12-tackle performance against defending league champs Colgate. Junior Kendall Catching (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron) and sophomore John Groom Jr. (Las Vegas, Nev./Liberty) will add talent and experience to the rotation, while freshman Marquis Parris (Atlanta, Ga./Tri-Cities) will push for early playing time after a successful high school career.
Both of Georgetown’s starting defensive ends are back, as returning captain Hunter Kiselick (Nutley, N.J./Bergen Catholic) was awarded a fifth year, and senior Phil Novacki (Great Falls, Va./Langley) will look to build on a strong junior campaign that saw him record 44 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. Junior Elijah English (Leesburg, Fla./South Sumter) showed flashes last season, as did sophomore Mike Taylor III (Shreveport, La./CE Byrd), earning playing time in eight games and making one start. Junior Muhammad Wainwright (New Brunswick, N.J./The Hun School) and sophomore Patrick Pastore (Albany, N.Y./Christian Brothers Academy) return and will be in the mix for playing time. Georgetown will also have a host of freshmen competing for spots on the outside, as Khristian Tate (Warner Robins, Ga./Covenant Academy), a decorated high school running back, will give GU added speed and power on the edge. J.J. Meilutis (Kaunas, Lithuania/South Fort Myers [Fla.]) and Zachary Nolan (Pittsburgh, Pa./Plum) will also compete for early playing time.
COACHES TAKE: “I think we’re going to be deeper and more experienced than we were a year ago,” defensive line coach Alex Kolt said. “It’s good to have a significant amount of seniors and some of the guys that got their feet wet last season who have developed. Some of our defensive tackles who played last year really worked to get stronger over the summer and then I think we’ll have more depth at defensive end.”
LINEBACKERS: The Hoyas return two of its three starters after receiving break out seasons from senior Leo Loughrey (Glenshaw, Pa./Central Catholic) and junior Daniel Yankovich (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco Prep) last season. Loughrey stepped into a starting role and responded with 83 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions, while Yankovich moved from safety to outside linebacker after the first game of the season and finished second on the team with 88 tackles, adding 5.0 TFL and 2.0 sacks in his first year as a starter.
The unit also gave valuable experience to sophomore J’V’on Butler (Melbourne, Fla./Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy), who played in 10 games and made 13 tackles. Senior Casey Kuhns (Watertown, Conn./Taft) saw time in nine games, making three tackles, while junior Matthew Apuzzi (Princeton, N.J./The Lawrenceville School) earned playing time in 11 games, making 17 tackles while splitting time at linebacker and on special teams. Junior Joshua Lightburn (North Charleston, S.C./Fort Dorchester [Kent School]) also saw time at linebacker and on special teams last season, making two tackles. Sophomores Matt Deal (Tallahassee, Fla./Maclay School) and A.J. Schimmelpfennig (Atlanta, Ga./Lambert) both earned playing time as freshmen and will be counted on during their second season on the Hilltop.
The Hoyas will add plenty of depth to the linebacker corps, with a pair of transfers looking to make an immediate impact. Junior Cameron Seward (Dunwoody, Ga./The Westminster School) arrives after spending two seasons at Boston College, while sophomore Chris Gavin (Baltimore, Md./South Carroll) arrives after having committed to VMI. The unit will also be bolstered by freshmen Chase Hawthorne (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic) and Christian Hernandez (Woodland Hills, Calif./Sierra Canyon).
COACHES TAKE: “The loss of Matt Satchell is big, he was an all-conference guy and one of the league’s top tacklers, but we have some proven guys and some guys that have been getting work on special teams and limited roles on defense that are ready to step up,” defensive coordinator Luke Thompson said. “This is a good group, they work hard, they do a good job of taking coaching and so far you can see them get better every day.”
DEFENSIVE BACKS: The Hoyas lost a pair of cornerbacks in two-time all-league selection Ettian Scott and four-year contributor Cameron Gamble, but return junior Jelani Williamson (Silver Spring, Md./Good Counsel), who was among the league leaders in interceptions and passes defended until being hampered by an injury midway through the season.
Williamson looks to build on an impressive sophomore season, while several other cornerbacks will fight for a starting spot on the other side of the field. Sophomore Ramon Lyons (Orlando, Fla./Ocoee/West Orange) showed development through his freshman season and proved to be valuable on special teams. Sophomore Blaise Brown (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine/Loomis Chaffee) earned time at safety and played in GU’s nickel package last season and could receive a look. Junior Jake Johnson (Corapolis, Pa./West Allegheny) will also be in the mix.
The Hoyas will also have several freshman competing for early playing time at cornerback. Leon Agee (Laurel, Miss./Robert S. Alexander), Jalen Goldwire (Plantation, Fla./Western), Jarrod Kelley (Auburndale, Fla./Auburndale) and Ryan White-Boyd (Wilton Manors, Fla./South Plantation) will all get plenty of training camp reps to accelerate the learning process leading up to the home opener against Davidson on September 3.
At safety, the Hoyas lose Garrett Powers, but return two-year starter junior David Akere (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron), who finished fourth on the squad with 78 tackles, while intercepting two passes last season. Preseason All-Patriot League selection sophomore Jethro Francois (Miami, Fla./Winter Haven/Victory Christian Academy) proved to be ready when called upon after earning National FCS Rookie of the Week honors after a 15-tackle performance in his first start at Bucknell last season.
Brown is also expected to see time at safety along with junior Larenz Griggs (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King Jr.), who missed last season due to injury.
COACHES TAKE: “I guess the expectation is to have significant improvement,” said safeties coach Kevin Doherty. “We have some built in depth with players that have had quality playing time. David Akere started last season, Jethro Francois and Blaise Brown each earned significant playing time as freshman and Larenz Griggs was a starter at nickel for us a few years back, so we have some guys with experience that have played well together and can all hit.”
“We’re young,” explained cornerbacks coach Maurice Banks. “The only guy that’s had significant playing time is Jelani Williamson and he’ll be a junior. We have a good amount of freshmen in there; we like them, but we’re going to need them to step up and contribute within our two-deep so we can have four corners that can play well in games.”