Central Michigan spring football: Defensive line must fill big shoes of old
This is the sixth of a series of nine Central Michigan position group previews entering spring football practice, which begins March 19. Today's edition focuses on the defensive line. For more, check back with Central Michigan Life over the next week.
Quarterbacks – March 4
Running backs – March 4
Wide receivers – March 5
Tight ends – March 5
Offensive line – March 6
Defensive line – March 6
Linebackers – March 7
Defensive backs – March 7
Special teams – March 8
Just a year ago, the defensive line was arguably the best position group on the Central Michigan football team due to its veteran leaders full of talent.
With defensive ends Mitch Stanitzek and Nathan Brisson-Fast graduating, along with Mike Danna's transfer to Michigan, the defensive line is suddenly scarce of experience.
The group alone accounted for 135 tackles from the defensive front four. Danna was third on the team with 66 total tackles and 37 of them were solo.
To add to the loss of depth, CMU also lost Arizona graduate transfer Marcus Griffin who played in 11 games and made 12 total tackles.
Even with this group of experienced starters, they allowed 204.7 rushing yards per game – ninth in the Mid-American Conference. With that being said, CMU ranked dead last in the league for time of possession (26:43 per game), leaving that defense on the field more than it wanted to be.
One way or another, the Chippewas will be sending out a lot of new faces on the defensive line in the season opener on Aug. 29 against Albany at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
While there are no set starters on the defensive line, here's a look at who should see time in the rotation up front based off what we've seen in the past.
Will D'Andre Dill and Sean Adesanya emerge as stars?
If there are a couple of names up front returning that CMU fans may remember from a season ago, it starts with D'Andre Dill and Sean Adesanya.
Both, however, have very different stories.
Dill, a senior from Chester, Pennsylvania, has been with the Chippewas since his freshman season back in 2016. He broke into the CMU lineup for nine games and totaled four tackles. From there, Dill began to show more promise.
As a sophomore, he played in 11 games making seven starts. The 6-foot-1, 310-pound lineman accumulated 25 tackles with 21 of them being solo. Last season, he made seven more starts for the Chippewas and recorded 11 solo and 20 total tackles in eight games.
Dill is coming off an ACL tear which limited his season to just eight games. He is still recovering.
The other Chippewa expected to fill these large holes in the line is Adesanya.
The transfer student-athlete has one of the more unique stories you can find. Following his graduate transfer from Illinois to CMU in 2018, Adesanya has gained another year of eligibility by applying for a medical redshirt from his 2017 season with the Fighting Illini.
To say the least, it was much needed for CMU's depth and overall talent at the position. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end played in all 12 games in his first season with the Chippewas, starting two contests. He tallied 29 tackles with 16 of them being solo while adding four sacks for a loss of 31 yards which ranked second on the roster.
At a position that already is lacking depth, these two players will have to make major strides heading into the 2019 campaign in order for the group to be solid.
Who else will see time up front?
Outside of Dill and Adesanya, the proven numbers on paper start to thin out even more. However, the Chippewas do return a few other players with in-game experience.
The first name is redshirt freshman defensive tackle LaQuan Johnson. As a freshman, Johnson got the chance to enter a game four times. He made eight solo and 15 tackles in the final four games of the season, showing strides of positivity heading into the offseason.
The 6-foot-3, 282-pounder was able to keep his redshirt by only competing in four games a season ago, which by NCAA rules is the max amount of games you can play in while keeping a non-medical redshirt.
On the flip side of Adesanya, expect to see Amir Siddiq get minutes. The redshirt sophomore from Detroit is in his third year with the program and saw action for the first time in 2018. In eight games, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound defensive end recorded a pair of solo tackles and four in total. Both of his solo tackles came against Ball State on Oct. 13.
Other players who should contribute to the defensive line rotation from a season ago are junior defensive end Leon Page (6-foot-3, 246 pounds), redshirt freshman defensive end NeVen Simington (6-foot-4, 234 pounds), junior defensive tackle Robi Stuart (6-foot-2, 290 pounds) and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jonathan Berghorst (6-foot-2, 287 pounds).
Stuart is expected to be a part of the rotation with Johnson, recording 24 tackles (10 solos) as a sophomore in 2018. If Dill is not fully recovered from his ACL tear by the start of the season, expect Berghorst to fill in for him.
CMU has three true freshman on the defensive line for its 2019 roster — Jacques Bristol, Max Saylor and Fred Stokes.
Bristol is a native of Sarasota Florida and played for Booker High School. He was given a two-star rating by the 247Sports Composite. The defensive tackle checks in at 6-foot-1 and 286 pounds.
Saylor is an in-state recruit from Rochester who was given a two-star rating. Saylor (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) finished his senior season with 55 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and five sacks at Brother Rice High School.
Stokes played his high school ball for Montini Catholic in Lombard, Illinois. He totaled a whopping 95 tackles with 22 of them going for a loss and 11 sacks. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound defensive end was also given a two-star rating and was ranked No. 75 at his position in Illinois.
On a different note, junior defensive tackle Joshuwa Eldridge could see game action as a third-string rotation player to give others a play off. Eldridge played in four games in 2018.