Sept. 2, 2015
WASHINGTON - Senior linebacker Matt Satchell (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill East) pulled the Hoya defense aside following an 11-vs-11 session during the second week of training camp and voiced his displeasure with the unit’s lackadaisical play. It was a sentiment that was quickly echoed by senior defensive end Hunter Kiselick (Nutley, N.J./Bergen Catholic), before the defense returned to the field.
It was a sign of new leadership for a defense that graduated several starters from within each position group. Many of last season’s leaders are gone from a defense that allowed just 22.5 points per game, tied for the second best scoring defense in the Patriot League, while forcing 21 turnovers, also the second best total in the league. While this year’s defense only features six seniors, including captains Kiselick and Satchell, the group has found no shortage of players stepping up.
“We have leaders throughout this team that are stepping up in each class,” Satchell said. “It’s been a collective effort.”
DEFENSIVE LINE: Kiselick is one of just two returners with starting experience along the Hoyas’ defensive line, joining senior defensive tackle Dezmond Richardson (Euless, Texas/Grant[Euless Trinity]). The duo combined for 63 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss (TFL) in 2014 and will be counted on to lead a position group that graduated six players, including All-American Alec May and All-Patriot League selection Jordan Richardson. Despite being the position group hardest hit by graduation, the defensive line may again be one of the squad’s deepest units.
“It was definitely a hit at first,” Kiselick said about the graduation of six contributing players. “But the younger guys came in prepared and have worked hard and that makes leading a little easier. Our interior guys, our outside guys and our freshmen came in ready to play and they’ve just kept it going through camp.”
Junior defensive end Phil Novacki (Great Falls, Va./Langley) showed flashes of brilliance during his sophomore season, earning national weekly accolades for his three tackle, 1.5 sack and 48-yard interception return for a touchdown at Marist. Junior Hugh Masterson (Invernees, Ill./Saint Viator) worked his way into the rotation last season, finishing with six tackles. Both Novacki and Masterson will have an opportunity to step out from behind the shadow of their all-league teammates.
Junior Bryan Jefferson (Vienna, Va./Annandale) returns after missing his sophomore season and has become part of the team’s reason for optimism up front. The defensive tackle earned time as a freshman and will be counted on to help free up the linebackers to make tackles. Sophomores Kendall Catching (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron) and Elijah English (Leesburg, Fla./South Sumter) have both shown improvement on the inside and outside, respectively and are expected to be part of the team’s rotation up front. Freshmen Brennen Sawicki (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Scioto), John Groom Jr. (Las Vegas, Nev./Liberty) and Mike Taylor (Shreveport, La./CE Byrd) could also push for playing time early in their careers.
“Even though we lost six guys that played a lot for us last year, we feel like we have more depth this year being able to rely on some of the young guys,” second-year defensive coordinator Luke Thompson said. “Those guys have done a really good job of anchoring down against the run game and being able to sit in there and not allow much movement. They’ve also done a good job of understanding that we’re going to play multiple guys on the defensive line and have bought into the idea of attacking offenses in waves.”
LINEBACKERS: Outside linebackers Satchell and junior Ty Williams (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard) were very productive last season and both will be expected to take another step forward to help ease the loss of All-Patriot League selection Nick Alfieri. Satchell was among the PL leaders in tackles with 92 and Williams adjusted nicely to the defensive side of the ball, finishing with 47 tackles and 4.0 TFL, after beginning his career on the Hilltop as a running back.
Junior Leo Loughrey (Glenshaw, Pa./Central Catholic) was named the defense’s most improved player at the conclusion of spring ball and will look to continue Georgetown’s strong tradition at middle linebacker. Loughrey started the final game of the 2014 season and had 21 total tackles during his sophomore season.
“Ty Williams started for us last year, but is also a guy that has really improved over the last 12 months,” Thompson said. “Matt Satchell is one of our leaders and he’s really done a nice job of taking on the role of being a communicator on the field. He’s embraced that role. Leo is very talented at the mike linebacker position, and he’s going to continue to get better as he gets more reps and game reps.”
GU will be young at linebacker behind the team’s projected starters. Juniors Casey Kuhns (Watertown, Conn./Taft) and Chris Cardinali (Monroe Township, N.J./Hun School) and sophomores Matthew Apuzzi (Princeton, N.J./The Lawrenceville School) and Joshua Lightburn (North Charleston, S.C./Fort Dorchester[Kent School] will look to turn hard offseason work into playing time. A talented group of freshman, including J’V’on Butler (Melbourne, Fla./Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy), Matt Deal (Tallahassee, Fla./Maclay School) and AJ Schimmelpfennig (Atlanta, Ga./Lambert) will also push for playing time early.
“Apuzzi, Kuhns, Cardinal and Lightburn have all made strides over the last year and all of those guys are going to have to be ready to play for us in some capacity,” Thompson said.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Georgetown’s defensive backfield will be among the most experienced and deepest units on the team. Senior cornerback Ettian Scott (Okinawa, Japan/Northside (N.C.)) is the team’s lone preseason All-Patriot League selection after finishing among the league leaders in interceptions (4) and passes defended (16). Senior safety Garrett Powers (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) was among the Hoyas’ most opportunistic players last season, intercepting three passes and recovering two fumbles, while adding 49 tackles and 4.5 TFL.
“Ettian is an established player in the Patriot League and he’s even stepped up in terms of being a little more physical versus the run, which we’ll need,” Thompson said. “He’s also done a good job as a leader taking some of the young guys under his wing.”
Junior cornerback Porter Huntley (Dallas, Texas/Jesuit), who started 10 games opposite Scott in 2014 returns to solidify the cornerback position. The return of senior Cameron Gamble (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) from injury and the emergence of sophomore Jelani Williamson (Silver Spring, Md./Good Counsel) along with sophomores Larenz Griggs (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King Jr.) and Jake Johnson (Corapolis, Pa./West Allegheny) and impressive freshman Ramon Lyons (Orlando, Fla./Ocoee/West Orange) give the team a deep group of speedy, talented corners.
At safety, the Hoyas will return sophomore David Akere (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron), who earned time with the starters during his freshman season on the Hilltop and Daniel Yankovich (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco Prep) who earned first team reps during training camp. Freshmen Blaise Brown (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine[Loomis Chaffee]) and Jethro Francois (Miami, Fla./Winter Haven/Victory Christian Academy) could also push for time early in their careers, with sophomore John Oblachinski (Cranford, N.J./Cranford) also providing depth at the safety position.
“The older guys at the safety position have really stepped up, while the younger guys are showing they have some really good physical skills,” Thompson explained. “We’ve also had really good competition at the cornerback position (opposite Scott) with Jelani, Porter Huntley, Cam Gamble, Jake Johnson and Ramon Lyons. They all bring different skills sets to the position, but as a coaching staff we’re comfortable with putting all of those guys in a game.”
Georgetown will open its 2015 campaign in Loretto, Pa. when they take on Saint Francis (Pa.) on Saturday, September 5. Opening kickoff is scheduled for noon.