Weber State football: Defensive line looks to establish dominance for Wildcats

Wednesday , August 09, 2017 - 4:06 PM

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

This story is the first in a series titled “Know The Cats”, which previews each position group of the Weber State football team throughout fall camp.

OGDEN — Last season, Weber State’s defensive line had no seniors, but still managed to contribute to a defense that allowed the fourth-least amount of yards per game in the Big Sky.

Juniors at the time, Rayshawn Henderson and McKay Murphy were thrust into leadership positions in a hurry. While the line wasn’t as strong as it was in 2015 when the team touted the strongest defense in the league, progress was made and the group helped the team ultimately make its appearance in the FCS Playoffs.

“It was hard, but I think it gave them more experience playing with a younger group,” assistant coach Kite Afeaki said. “Now we’ve got some depth and expectations have gone up. We’ve got high expectations and now they just have to play up to it.”

That expectation is to return to the stout ways of two seasons ago, with veteran leadership and an elite line that won’t budge.

So far in camp, Afeaki likes what he has seen, especially how the seniors have taken on more of a coaching role on the field.

“We’ve got more vets in the group now that have been able to fine tune their technique and teach more football,” he said. “You hear them coaching up the younger guys, saying what I’m saying, being able to be on the same page and use the same verbiage. Their technique has improved. They’ve got some experience.”

Murphy believes the pieces are in place for a strong season, which will be his last at Weber State.

“We want to be the complete package,” Murphy said. “I think right now we’ve got the players, we’ve got the coach with Coach Kite, and then Coach (Grant) Duff with the outside ends. I think this year’s a very achievable goal to do that. I think we’re on our way to doing that.”

RELATED: Weber State football ranked No. 22 in 2017 preseason FCS Coaches Poll

With five seniors, and one junior in Felipe Sitake, the knowledge and experience to lead the four sophomores and five freshman are established.

Henderson, who’s personal goal for the upcoming season is to lead the country in tackles for loss, is confident in his younger teammates to be able to provide depth when injuries occur.

“We’re pretty young, and we push each other every single day,” he said. “Cole McGinnis will knock anyone back. He used to be a wrestler, so he knows how to stay low and get to it ... it’s going to be downhill every single day, every play. I think we’re ready.”

Afeaki did not hesitate when asked if his line can return to the strength they had in 2015, and hopes not only for Big Sky dominance, but national recognition as well.

“We want to be the No. 1 defense in the country,” he said. “I have a good feeling. If we stay healthy, we should be a force to be reckoned with.”

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.

Get the Standard-Examiner Advantage.
×