Nick Alfieri and the Hoyas linebackers will be one of the team's deepest units.
WASHINGTON - The Georgetown University football team's linebacker corps will again be a position of strength for the Hoyas, giving defensive coordinator Luke Thompson a deep stable of players at the position.
Thompson, who returns to the Hilltop after two seasons at Army, was an important addition to Head Coach Rob Sgarlata's coaching staff, one who was met with excitement from many of the team's upperclassmen.
"Defensively we've got a lot of good energy with Coach Thompson coming back," senior captain Nick Alfieri said. "He coached all four of our senior linebackers as freshman and now that we've stepped into leadership roles we have to help the younger guys meet Coach Thompson's expectations."
The quick development of the younger players was essential last season, as injuries decimated the unit. The Hoyas were forced to play 12 different players at linebacker, even necessitating the move of then-freshmen running back Tyrell Williams (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard) to linebacker prior to the team's game at Brown. Though the injuries proved to be tragic at times last season, they have been a blessing for this year's team in the gains in experience.
"The benefit of the injuries last year is that some of these younger guys did get thrown into the mix early," Thompson said. "Right now, I really feel good about our depth. We have guys that can fill those roles and with the game experience those guys received last season, now nothing will be a surprise to them."
Leading the way for the Hoyas will be a strong group of four senior linebackers who will not only be counted on for production, but need to make sure the younger members of the unit are up to speed on the field and in meetings.
Through the past five seasons Georgetown has featured Robert McCabe, Nick Parrish and Dustin Wharton, the three leading tacklers in program history at linebacker. The trend of prolific tacklers will continue in 2014, as senior linebacker and 2014 Preseason All-Patriot League selection Nick Alfieri (Portland, Ore./Jesuit/The Hotchkiss School) returns. Alfieri finished second in the PL last season with 10.2 tackles per game and is currently 10th in program history with 216 tackles during his career. The Portland, Oregon native brings more than numbers to the defense. Alfieri, a senior captain, was selected the 11th recipient of the Joe Eacobacci No. 35 Memorial Jersey, a symbol of his leadership on and off the field.
"Nick is a great leader," Thompson said. "He has a personality that people gravitate to, not just defensive players, but offensive players as well."
Senior Patrick Boyle (Wheaton, Ill./Benet Academy) was the only member of last season's linebacker unit to not miss a game. Boyle made a team-high 98 tackles finishing among the PL leaders in that category. But now as a senior, Boyle will be counted on as a leader. A role Thompson feels will suit him.
"Pat Boyle's leadership style is more as an enforcer," Thompson said in comparing Boyle's leadership style to Alfieri's. "He leads by example, he comes to work every day and he's tough. He'll tell a guy if he doesn't think they're working hard enough."
Fellow seniors Wardell Crutchfield III (Pomona, Calif./Baldwin Park) and Ryan Rattay (Toledo, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit) who have both fought through injuries during their careers will also have the opportunity to contribute to the unit.
"Coming back for my final season and having matured and learning how to do things through the years has been important," Crutchfield said. "You learn how to practice and learn how to play and make sure we're doing the little things right and now helping lead the younger players in the right direction."
Crutchfield has made the most of the opportunity entering camp in the best shape of his career.
"Wardell has been hurt off and on throughout his career, but when he's healthy he does some good things," Thompson said. "He came in and great shape and it's going to pay dividends for him. He has a lot of pop and a lot of explosiveness in his tackling ability."
Juniors LB's Expected to Take Next Step---
Junior Matthew Satchell (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill East) saw a significant amount of action last fall, playing in nine games. He has also been turning the heads of the sports performance staff since the end of last season with his work in the spring and summer months. Arriving back at camp, Satchell's hard work has been quickly noticed by the coaching staff. He has also impressed with his knowledge of the team's defensive schemes.
"Matthew Satchell came in, in phenomenal shape, he's running well and is very intelligent," Thompson said. "He's one of the linebackers who has the most comprehensive knowledge of our defensive scheme and is a great example for the young guys. He's a personable guy, but on the field he's all business. He takes a lot of pride in working hard, like a Nick (Alfieri) and that just helps out the younger guys."
Junior Hunter Kiselick (Nutley, N.J./Bergen Catholic) was on his way toward a breakout season as a defensive end, compiling four tackles for loss in the first three games of last season, before an injury sidelined him for final eight games. He returned to action in spring, but moved to linebacker where his versatility should help the Hoyas defense.
"Hunter Kiselick brings a lot of versatility to the position," Thompson said. "He's playing linebacker for us now, but he's also a dynamic edge pass rusher. He's played defensive line here in the past and he's the strongest guy at the position. He's another kid that brings a certain degree of toughness."
Sophomores to push for playing time---
Tyrell Williams was expected to contribute at running back after an impressive freshman training camp. He even received carries in the Hoyas crowded backfield during the victory over Davidson. But injuries shifted him to defense where he adjusted quickly; making 13 tackles with half a sack in eight games. Williams comes into his sophomore season stronger, but will still split time between running back and linebacker, receiving carries on offense during the team's first scrimmage.
Fellow sophomore Leo Loughrey (Glenshaw, Pa./Central Catholic) also impressed the coaching staff during his freshman season, playing in eight games, while making five tackles and one tackle for loss. Another player who impressed the coaching staff with his work in the offseason, Loughrey could see a much larger role in the Hoyas defense as a sophomore.
"I've very pleased with what they did over the summer," Thompson said. "Ty is a very gifted guy and is a quiet leader. He's serious; he's very dependable and wants to be great. Leo is a blue collar football player. He's very physical, is running great and I'm just really excited about what Leo brings."
Casey Kuhns (Watertown, Conn./Taft) also joins the team as a linebacker after spending last season as a student assistant. Kuhns, who continues a long line of family members to put on a Georgetown football uniform was one of the team's top performers during their winter training program, before joining the team for spring ball.
"Casey is a great guy to have on the team and in the position room," Thompson said. "He put in work to play here. He wasn't able to play last year, but he spent that time in the weight room. He's the hardest working guy at our position. He doesn't get the most reps, but he doesn't say a word. He just wants to get better. I have a ton of respect for him."
The Next Generation---
Joshua Lightburn (North Charleston, S.C./Fort Dorchester/Kent School) and Matthew Apuzzi (Princeton, N.J./The Lawrenceville School) highlight the Hoyas group of incoming freshmen linebackers. While the depth at the position will not force them into action quickly, but Thompson has liked what he has seen from each of them so far.
"Lightburn was a big safety in high school and has a lot of physical ability," Thompson said. "He runs well, he's adjusting to playing the linebacker position and Matt Apuzzi is intelligent, picks things up quickly, definitely a high effort kid that is finding his way."
While the Hoyas coaching staff expects Alfieri and the unit's starters to solidify the team's defense, the depth at the position is a reason for optimism for the 2014 season and beyond.
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