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Defensive Line Preview: Balanced, Hard-Working Core of Four Leads the Pack

By Jack O'Rourke '20, 08/01/19, 8:15AM EDT


Anthony Gerace '20 will be the leader of the group after starting as a junior in 2018.

Be it adding Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes to a young, star-studded outfield, or four strong defensive linemen, depth is important. While Coach Kyle didn’t make a harrowing trade deadline deal, his defensive line naturally one of the deepest in the area. 

Anthony Gerace will lead an experience heavy D-line that includes a two-headed monster inside via seniors Max Watters and Rico Levert, and junior Bennett Adler. 

“We have Watters, Gerace, Adler, and Levert, and a few others who will fill in,” said defensive line coach Mark Sullivan. With those four, all vying for a starting spot, they've been in shape and ready to play. You can tell right away when they report in the summertime – who's putting in the time? They've been working and preparing. Coach Kyle is big on that. If you work hard and put in the time, it's apparent. I think this will be a hard-working group. If they become a little more cohesive in their responsibilities, this will be a very good defensive line. But right now, I think our strength, on paper, is at linebacker. We have some very good linebackers with great depth. We're trying to steal a linebacker for the D-line, but I'm not sure if that's going to happen.” 

Anthony Gerace, due to his experience, will be the default leader of the grizzled line. The senior defensive end will be causing havoc all season, as Gerace is a smart man who holds a high football IQ and knows how to let plays develop until he finds his time to swarm. Gerace produced 24.5 tackles and was third on the team with 3 sacks. The senior’s consistent effort and hard play should not go unnoticed by the Wildcat faithful. 

Max Watters, a senior who also saw the field often last season and had his own niche on punt block, improved his stamina and will be an integral of the 2019 Wildcat defensive puzzle. Watters will be tasked with filling up the middle of the defensive line at nose tackle. Watters’ experience and vocal leadership qualities will serve as a tool to not just his fellow defensive linemen but the linebackers as well. If Watters does what many surrounding Saint Ignatius football expect him to do, I pity teams who try to run the ball up the middle, as a strong legion stands behind him with aid. 

Running outside will also not be an easy task with Gerace and Adler. 

Bennett Adler is a gentle giant off the field, a tall and strong but nice and pleasant man. On the field, Adler is nothing of the sort, and he will improve on a strong sophomore campaign. Adler provided 5 tackles and 2 sacks in only 5 contests. Given not one, but two years to continue and develop his skills, some people in Tuscaloosa should have a hotline to Cleveland ready. 

“Adler saw playing time as a sophomore, a thin sophomore,” said Coach Sullivan. “He's put on a lot of weight and has worked hard. He actually wrestled last year, which helped him with his balance and flexibility at (defensive) end.” 

As if things couldn’t get any worse for opposing offensive lines, Rico Levert will join Watters at nose tackle. Levert recorded 3 tackles and one sack as a junior, and the senior only has room to grow. 

“Rico has put in a lot of work and has gone to a lot of football camps, Division I, II, and III,” said Sullivan. “That will help him a lot, maybe from a confidence standpoint. He's always been athletic, fast, and quick, but it didn't transfer to his play. I think part of it was confidence. It's tough to say which of the four will have a breakout year or surprise us. I think all four have that chance."

With a proven Anthony Gerace mixed with all the potential in the world in Adler, the edge rushers for the Wildcats call up names of the past to your head. Watters and Levert provide a strong duo as well up the middle, and these four will be a big part in holding opposing offenses at will. 

"This year, there's no Dre'Mont Jones, who will come in and everyone looks to and relies on him,” said Sullivan. “In reality, with defensive line, that's better. They all have to step up, and they're all accountable. When you have a Dre'Mont, others look to him to make a play and then we don't stay strong in some instances. It's good to be balanced."