Oct. 14, 2011
WASHINGTON - Georgetown football Head Coach Kevin Kelly often describes senior defensive end Andrew Schaetzke (Toledo, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit) as the best defensive player in the Patriot League and for good reason. Schaetzke led the league in tackles for loss (15) and finished second in sacks (9) last year. Through six games, he is again among the league leaders in both categories. Though the success of the Hoyas rush defense, which ranks eighth in the nation allowing just 84.83 yards per game is due to much more than Schaetzke's dominance.
In part, the Hoyas linebacking corps, with Patriot League leading-tackler Robert McCabe (Newtown Square, Pa./Malvern Prep) along with fellow inside linebacker Jeremy Grasso (Washington Twp., N.J./Bergen Catholic) and sophomore Dustin Wharton (LaVale, Md./Allegany) have helped a front seven that has 41 tackles for loss. Though one of the most important developments has been the play of defensive lineman Dan Lenihan (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood) and Jordan Richardson (Athens, Ga./Athens Academy).
"Andrew Schaetzke has played amazing, but two other guys that don't get the same publicity, Dan Lenihan and Jordan Richardson have been playing out of their mind," McCabe said after the Hoyas win against Wagner. "Those three make it easy for us to run around and make plays."
Any questions about the makeup of the Hoyas defensive line have been erased with the performance of two players that were not with the team last season. Lenihan, a starter at defensive end in 2009, sat out during the 2010 season with injuries, while Richardson, a freshman was helping Athens Academy to the region championship game and state quarterfinals.
"Last year we had a real depth problem up front and then having Dan come back in the spring was a huge boost up front," Coach Kelly said. "Our focal point recruiting last year was up front and Jordan was a guy that we stumbled upon late and we were very fortunate to get him."
"Both of those guys bring a lot of different (abilities) to the field," Schaetzke said. "I think the chemistry has been pretty good. Dan definitely brings a lot of energy, he's always hooting and hollering and getting everyone going and when people see that it picks up the rest of the defense. Jordan has adjusted well, he's playing like an upperclassmen, not necessarily a freshman."
Lenihan has returned to the field in style, compiling 13 tackles with three tackles for a loss of 16 yards and 2.5 sacks for a loss of 15 yards, which places him ninth in the Patriot League, while starting each game at defensive end. Though his most important impact is one not shown in the statistics.
"What happens is when you have a high energy guy like that it spreads within the position group in practice and the better you practice the better you play in games," Kelly said. "I think that's why you see an elevated level of productivity in games because of that energy level Dan brings in practice."
Prior to the season, the last time Lenihan had suited up in the Blue & Gray was in the midst of Georgetown's 0-11 season, though he mentions that the feel on this year's team is very different.
"It's definitely a different feeling, there's a lot more energy, a lot more trust in one another on and off the field and that helps us out," Lenihan said. "I think we have eight or nine guys back from last year and that continuity is there. Having so many guys on the field that have a ton of game experience makes it easier for those who don't going into any game."
One player who has been helped immensely by his teammates' game experience has been Richardson. The rookie on the line, playing with a pair of veterans, has become a difference maker, through his first five games, where he has started the last four at defensive tackle.
Teammates have praised his ability to play beyond his years. Richardson has compiled 13 tackles with three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, which ranks him 12th in the PL. Richardson was able to impress during training camp and has carried over his performance onto the field.
"He's playing better than me," Lenihan laughed. "To see him come in as a true freshman and handle everything so well and play so well in tough situations with all that we've asked him to do inspires a lot of confidence from the rest of us."
"Obviously Jordan is a freshman and we had high expectations for him coming in and he's lived up to that," Coach Kelly said. "He's an excellent football player and we anticipate him being a great player for us not only this year but for the next three."
Richardson credits his linemates and coaches with his quickened adjustment to the college game.
"It's been an easy transition, because Coach Dan and Schaetzke have been so supportive and helped me out the entire time and really showed me the ropes," Richardson said. "Dan wakes me up in the morning and Schaetzke playing like a beast on the field gets me motivated to make my own plays."
For Richardson, the potential for the line's success was evident very early on in the season, as the Hoyas were holding Lafayette to four-of-15 on third down conversions and just 3.0 yards per carry, along with two sacks and seven tackles for loss.
"I could tell probably the first drive after I got a good hit on Lafayette," Richardson said. "Dan and I got a TFL on a big third down stop and I thought this could be a good year. The way we finished off that game with Schaetzke making a big play, I knew that I could really be a help for our run defense and we could be really good."
Beyond the three starters, Georgetown has received strong play from a number of players, including junior defensive end Andrew Maliska (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto), sophomore defensive tackle Charlie Dann (Youngstown, Ohio/Liberty) and a pair of freshmen in Xander Carpousis (Winter Park, Fla./Fork Union Military Academy) and Peter Daibes (Wayne, N.J./Wayne Hills) that have allowed the team to rotate along the front line, a luxury that has not been afforded to the Hoyas coaching staff throughout the past few seasons.
The defensive line will have its hands full for the rest of the season, as GU will see a strong rushing Howard University team, followed by a Colgate a team that features Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Nate Eachus at running back for Homecoming on Saturday, October 22. The group is confident that it will be able to do its part to help the Hoyas win games and stay among the nation's best defenses against the run.
"It's been a whole defensive effort, flying to the ball, running well and Coach Sgarlata has put us in a position to make plays against the run," Schaetzke said.
"We're just going to come out here and play Hoya defense," Lenihan laughed, recognizing his cliché answer. "We are going to maintain what we've been doing and continue our success in that way."