A little star power, solid contributors, and bright young prospects comprise the defensive line for the Wildcats in 2020.
The Wildcats have a promising group of young men who will be charged with anchoring the run defense and attacking the quarterback this season.
In the Saint Ignatius 3-3-5 defense, the line plays an important role in limiting the run game and getting after the quarterback. The Wildcats have the weapons to achieve both goals this season.
Bennett Adler will be the leader and linchpin of the defensive line this season.
Adler played a huge role for the unit as a junior. Adler tallied 19.5 tackles, tied for a team-best 8.5 tackles for loss, and led the squad with 5.5 sacks. Adler also forced a fumble.
At 6'3, 230 pounds, Adler will be a lean and mean defensive lineman this season. The senior possesses impressive athleticism, size, speed, and strength at his position. Adler has picked up some offers and will likely be a Division I athlete.
"Bennett will be the senior core of the defensive line," says Defensive Line Coach Dave Cicetti. "He played a lot last year and had a very successful junior year. He's a Division I recruit. He's got a lot of skill and technique. He's a tremendous pass rusher and he's good against the run."
Adler will be crucial in making things happen for the defense this season.
Two seniors have stood out during the offseason and camp – Luca LaSpina and John Lenhard.
LaSpina figures to start at defensive end opposite Adler. The twin of Alec, Luca added height and weight to his frame over the offseason. He looks like a different player, and appears ready to step in as a starter.
"He's had a really good camp. He worked his tail off in the offseason on the field and in the weight room," Cicetti says. "He's gotten a lot bigger, as he's gained about 25 pounds in the last year. He committed to working hard in the offseason, and he's had a good camp. He's got good technique and is a good pass rusher."
Lenhard figures to get into the mix this season on the line. The Rocky River native worked hard in the offseason and has demonstrated a good work ethic in camp. At 5'11, 215 pounds, Lenhard is a good athlete.
Turning to nose tackle, two juniors will be the men to watch inside – Tommy Wasinski and Peter Chalhoub.
Wasinski has burst onto the scene at camp, becoming a popular player on the line. Know as "Wazz", the Incarnate Word Academy alum is a strong force inside who fires out of his stance wonderfully.
"He is taking control of the position in camp. He's big, physical, and fast off the ball," Cicetti says. "He's done a great job of getting stronger in the offseason. In the interior, he's probably our best pass rusher."
At the JV level last season, Peter Chalhoub shined. As a sophomore, he helped anchor the defensive line to lead the way for the Wildcats' defense.
Unfortunately, an injury sidelined him in the last game. But he's recovered from the injury and looks to be back to normal, evidenced by his good performance in camp.
"He had a great year as a sophomore but unfortunately got injured in the last JV game. He had that repaired in the offseason, and he's worked really hard to get back into shape and stronger," Cicetti says. "He's shown a lot of good signs. He'll get a good amount of playing time."
In the mix
Two other players will figure in highly to the mix at linemen – Ryan Boomer and Joey Kause.
The two juniors each have shown promise so far. Boomer stands at 5'9, 235 pounds, while Kause measures at 6'0, 200 pounds.
Boomer and Kause will hope to earn playing time throughout the year. Each looks primed to do so.
Looking at Cicetti's philosophy, the Wildcats have two goals: 1. Stop the run, 2. Attack the quarterback.
"First and foremost, to be a good defensive line, you need to stop the run. Our emphasis will always be good technique against the run, getting third down and long situations," Cicetti explains. "From there, we're focused on getting pressure on the quarterback. Ideally, sacks are great, but they're hard to come by. But if you can get pressure on the quarterback, you can give our DBs time to tighten down the coverage."
So far in camp, the Wildcats' strength lies in the pass rush. But the Wildcats will be no slouches against the run.
"Our objective is to stop the run first and foremost, and when the opportunity comes to pressure the quarterback, we're going to do that," Cicetti says. "We've had a lot of pressures and sacks over the years, and this is a group I expect to do the same. I'd say our strength is more pass rush than anything, but hopefully we can improve our run defense."