Hawks looking to defensive line to set the tone

Senior Trevor Henson is one of two returning starters and one of nine returning players on the defensive line.
Senior Trevor Henson is one of two returning starters and one of nine returning players on the defensive line.

Head Coach Mike Turk on preseason progress: "After watching film of Wednesday's scrimmage, it's pretty clear that our defense is ahead of our offense. It looks like we're more comfortable with what we're doing on defense and we're doing it faster. But, we're still breaking down in some places and giving up big plays and we can't do that.

"Offensively, we're just so inconsistent and it's frustrating right now. The way we play, and the way the game is played in general, everyone has to do what they're supposed to do. There is a very small margin of error and we keep making silly mistakes and we keep getting in our own way. We have to correct that and start executing at a high level.

"Overall, we're getting a little better every day. We're trying to continue to improve and find a combination of guys who can be accountable and do the job."


Position Spotlight – Defensive Line


Projected Starters: Defensive Ends – Ian Theriault (So.) and DeAnte' Griffith (So.)

Defensive Tackle – Red Hinton (Jr.); Nose Guard – Trevor Henson (Sr.)


Others to Watch: Jarren Jones (Sr.), Dylan Powell (So.), Eddie Sims (So.), Marc Struck (So.), Oaklee Williams (So.), Charles Mickles (Fr.), Gavin Walker (Fr.)


A Closer Look: The defensive line returns nine players with game experience. With just two seniors in the group, the unit is both one of the youngest and most experienced on the team.

Among the projected starters, senior nose guard Trevor Henson and sophomore defensive end Ian Theriault return from last season. Henson and Theriault combined for 42 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2017.  

Sophomore defensive end DeAnte' Griffith, the USA South Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, returns after missing last season with an injury. Junior defensive tackle Red Hinton rounds out the starting unit.

Senior Troy Mandris was projected as a starter but is sidelined with an injury suffered in preseason camp.

Senior Jarren Jones joins Henson in the mix at nose guard while three sophomores (Oaklee Williams, Dylan Powell and Eddie Sims) are pushing for playing time at defensive end with Theriault and Griffith. Sophomore Marc Struck joins Hinton at defensive tackle.

Among the newcomers, freshman defensive tackle Charles Mickles and freshman defensive end Gavin Walker are making a strong push in the preseason.                                                                           

Turk on the experience returning on the defensive line:  "We have nine guys in this group who have played for us and have experience and we have two young guys who are showing a lot of potential. It looks like we've been able to find some depth across the front. That is huge, especially early in the season when it is so hot. We like to play a lot of guys up front, rotate them and keep them fresh."

Turk on the importance of the defensive line: "Everything we do on defense starts with those guys up front. In the years we've been good on defense, we were good up front. In the years we weren't good on defense, we struggled up front. When we control the line of scrimmage and stay in our gaps, we have a chance.

"I'm excited about this group. I think we probably have as much depth and ability combined as we've ever had. That's exciting for our team."

Next Practice: The Hawks return to the practice field on Friday at 9 a.m. Practices are open to the public.