Aug. 29, 2014
WASHINGTON - With a pair of All-Patriot League returning starters in senior defensive end Alec May (Wrenthem, Mass./King Phillip) and senior defensive tackle Jordan Richardson (Watkinsville, Ga./Athens Academy), the Georgetown University football team's defensive line would have been among the Patriot League's top units.
Add senior defensive end Richard Shankle (Atlanta, Ga./South Gwinnett), who finished among the Patriot League leaders in tackles for loss (9.5), senior defensive tackle Peter Daibes (Wayne, N.J./Wayne Hills) and junior defensive tackle Dezmond Richardson (Euless, Texas/Grant[Euless Trinity]) and, the Hoyas have a wealth of experienced, talented defensive lineman, a necessity if the Hoyas hope to contend in a strong league.
"In order to have a good defense it all starts up front," Defensive coordinator Luke Thompson said. "You have to have the guys up front that impact the run and the pass and we feel like we have some guys up front that can really impact the game."
"We're fortunate to have a veteran group that has played a lot of football here," fourth-year defensive line coach Alex Kolt said. "Those are four guys that all played as freshmen and have played throughout. It's good for the younger players to see what they need to do to develop. They see things a little quicker and they adjust a little faster."
The defensive line is another unit that experienced positive results through the team's Summer Stars training program, giving the staff an even brighter outlook on the season.
"It's a challenge to make sure guys get a certain amount of reps, but it's good to have depth," Kolt said. "These guys are pushing each other and they've done a very good job of treating every rep like it's an audition."
Jordan Richardson has been a starter and impact player on defense since arriving on the Hilltop in 2011 as a freshman. Last season he was tied for fifth in the Patriot League with 12.0 tackles for loss, while adding 52 tackles, 3.0 sacks, two pass breakups, two blocked kicks and a safety. Richardson will enter the 2014 season after an impressive training camp.
"This camp has been the best I've seen him play," Kolt said. "He's a big kid and there aren't many guys that size that can move like he does. Watching the way he's able to bend and run at close to 300 pounds is special. He's been all business over the past few weeks, so we're excited to get him out there on the field."
Richardson's presence has enabled several historic seasons from Georgetown defenders, with Andrew Schaetzke, Robert McCabe and Dustin Wharton able to make plays with Richardson creating problems in the middle of the line for opposing offense. "(Jordan) is critical," Kolt said. "Everybody thinks about him against the run freeing up the linebackers to make plays, but it's important against the pass, too. When you have an edge rusher like May, who was able to have 7.5 sacks last year, part of that is because the quarterback can't stop in the box, because Jordan Richardson is pushing the pocket."
After missing most of training camp in 2013 with an injury, May was not at full strength throughout the early portion of the season. Down the stretch, however, he transformed into one of the Patriot League's most dominant pass rushers. His seven sacks over the last three games of the season was good enough to finish tied for third in the league in that category, while he also finished tied for fifth, with Richardson, with 12.0 tackles for loss, helping him earn three consecutive Patriot League Weekly Honor Roll mentions.
"With Alec last year he was nicked up and didn't practice a lot in camp and it showed early in the season," Kolt said. "Now having a full camp under his belt and being at full tilt, I'm excited to see what he's capable of doing. He's a ball of energy, so we're excited to get him playing against somebody else."
Shankle provided significant production on the Hoyas front line and was one of the team's go-to players down the stretch of the 2013 season. He comes back for his senior season in the best shape of his career with the expectation of building on a year where he finished with 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
"Richard is having a really good camp, he worked hard in the summer and came back in great shape," Kolt said. "So we're anticipating big things from him this year."
Daibes returns for his senior season and is expected to play inside next to Jordan Richardson on the line. After finishing with 21 tackles in 11 games last season, Daibes has also put together a nice spring and summer and will be expected strengthen the unit.
"Peter has really come along," Kolt said. "He had a great spring, had a wonderful summer, is bigger than he's ever been and he brings a lot of energy to the table, so we're excited to have him out there. He's going to be a huge part of what we do inside."
Senior Gibson Vaught (Ashland, Va./Patrick Henry), who came to campus as a tight end and has played linebacker will move to the defensive line for his senior season, while senior Mitchell Black (Edinburgh, Scotland/University School) who has also bounced around from tight end to defensive line will provide leadership and depth on the line.
"Gibson has had a great camp," Kolt said. "He put up great numbers in the weight room, had the highest amount of reps on the bench and had the highest vertical, so he's turned some heads with the way he came to camp. Mitchell came back to the defensive line last year and played quite a bit for us. He's tough, he practices really hard, so he's a good guy to have in that group."
Dezmond Richardson highlights the junior returners to the defensive line. Richardson arrived on campus as a linebacker, moved to defensive end and has grown into a defensive tackle, where he will play defensive tackle. Richardson had 11 tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble in seven games last season.
"He continues to outgrow positions, which is good," Kolt said. "At his size he gives us another big body inside. He's also had a really good camp. He was here all summer and we're looking forward to seeing him in there with Peter or with Jordan."
Despite an experienced group of defensive lineman, two sophomores will have an opportunity to make an impact on the field. Phil Novacki (Great Falls, Va./Langley) split time between linebacker and defensive end last season, but will be a defensive end after bulking up to 6-3, 255 pounds since the Hoyas final game in the fall. Sophomore Hugh Masterson (Invernees, Ill./Saint Viator) will also be competing at a crowded defensive tackle spot, but has put himself into position to find playing time after a strong camp.
"Phil came in here as a linebacker and put on some muscle and he's maybe the most athletic guy in the group," Kolt said. "He can run as well as anyone we have and I'm excited to see him get a little more game action. He played a little bit as a freshman, but with a full winter and spring under his belt he's gotten a lot more comfortable. And Hugh is another guy that had a great summer, put on a bunch of weight, and is playing very well inside."
Georgetown's freshmen class will have the luxury of gaining experience behind, arguably, the team's deepest position group. But the talent level is evident for three student-athletes that will be pushing their way onto the field sooner than later. Kendall Catching (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron) and Matt Houpert (Hartford, Conn./William H. Hall) will work inside and Elijah English (Leesburg, Fla./South Sumter) on the edge.
English at 6-6, 230 pounds will bring size and speed to the group despite his inexperience.
"Things are really starting to click for Elijah," Kolt said. "He is a tremendous athlete, running one of the fastest 400 meter times in the state of Florida and he's starting to get more comfortable with football.
"He's a guy who hasn't played a ton of football and hasn't played much defense," Kolt said of the former high school tight end and track athlete. "But he's really starting to feel more comfortable with the game and more comfortable at the position. Richard Shankle especially has done a nice job taking him under his wing."
Kolt has been especially pleased with the leadership of the team's upperclassmen in bringing along the younger members of the team, a quality not always present when people are competing for playing time.
"I think that all of the upperclassmen have done a nice job in taking the freshman under their wings. From making sure they know where they're going and getting there on time on campus for classes, to the football stuff, too," Kolt said. "It's nice as a coach to have a senior group who are good leaders and role models."