BEAUMONT, Texas – When Mike Schultz took over the Lamar University football program he knew there was a lot of work to be done on the defensive side of the ball. With only five returning starters on defense, it was not going to be an easy task for the new man in charge.
That point is even more magnified on the defensive line. The Cardinals graduated three of four starters from last year’s squad with senior Manasseh Miles being the lone returning starter. Junior Seth Adams and sophomore Daniel Crosley earned a couple of spot starts which doesn’t leave a lot of experience on the defensive front.
Some may argue that LU will have to hit the reset button on defense this year, and maybe that is a positive. The Cardinals struggled with inconsistent play on defense in 2016. LU finished last in the league in rush defense (230.0 ypg), but led the Southland in pass defense (189.3 ypg).
“I really like this group of guys,” said defensive line coach Todd Ivicic. “The transition has been really smooth. Seth Adams, Dedrick Garner and Manasseh Miles will be the captains of our group. I expect to see these guys starting this year. They’re all great kids who work hard and I expect fans will see a lot of good things from them.
“Our biggest concern coming in was our struggles in the past to stop the run. Coach (Melvin) Smith has come in and focused on stopping the run game. That is something we have addressed since January. Our kids know that we are going to stop the run first, and we feel like we’re in a good situation to start the season,” added Ivicic.
Miles is entering his third season with the program, which wasn’t the original plan for the junior college transfer. Big things were expected from Miles heading into the 2015 season, but an injury in the second game ended his year. That injury has become a blessing in disguise as Miles was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA.
“Manasseh is a great run player,” said Ivicic. “He is looking very strong to win the starting right end job. He is a very strong young man. We feel a lot of left tackles in our league are going to have a hard time dealing with him trying to get him blocked in the run game.”
Miles started eight of the team’s 11 games last season. He finished the year with 23 total tackles, including 2.5 tackles for losses and a sack from his defensive end position.
“I feel like I’m 100 percent,” said Miles. “My mobility has improved a great deal since last year. With the injury I sustained, confidence is a big part of the recovery. You don’t want to sit around and be thinking about it or favoring that leg, you just want to act. If you get caught thinking about it, that could hinder your production. I have complete confidence in it. I’m able to squat 520 in the weight room. I’m 100 percent and feeling even better than I did last year.”
Sophomore Daniel Crosley will be expected to take on more of a leadership role after a strong rookie season. A highly-touted member of the Cardinals nationally ranked 2016 recruiting class, Crosley played in all 11 games last season earning three starts. He led the team in sacks and finished the year with 5.5 tackles for losses.
“Daniel may be the most talented guy we have,” said Ivicic. “He’s not the steadiest guy, but you will see some good things from him this season. I really expect some big things from him moving forward.”
Crosley started three games for Big Red in 2016. He finished the season with 42 tackles (22 solo stops), 5.5 tackles for losses and three sacks and registered two QB hurries.
Also vying for playing time on the edge will be junior Dedrick Garner and freshman Brandon Arnold. Entering his third season with the program, Garner is one of the more experienced players on the Cardinals’ line. He has played in 21 games with two starts during his career. During that stretch he has recorded 40 tackles in a backup role.
Garner, and some of the other returnees, may have the experience edge on Arnold, but what he is missing in game experience is made up for in raw talent. Arnold was a first-team all-district selection for state ranked Smithson Valley High School last season before signing to play with the Cardinals.
“Dedrick was very solid during the spring and he has stepped it up another notch in preseason camp,” said Ivicic. “When you see guys are at a good level, and they continue to up their game, you take note of that.
“Brandon is a very talented guy. He is not as strong as Dedrick or Manasseh, but he is only a true freshman. He will see some playing time this year,” added Ivicic.
Another member of the Cardinals incoming class who could have an impact this season is Beaumont Central’s Reggie Boseman. A three-time all-district selection, and former defensive MVP, Boseman elected to remain in the Golden Triangle and play for the hometown team at the next level. Standing 6-2, 255 pounds, Bozeman brings immediate size and strength to the position.
“Reggie has worked really hard to be where he is at,” said Miles. “He is trying to gain as much knowledge as he can to get better. He is always asking questions trying to learn and improve. This is a growing process but I can see the guys that we have on the line being successful here.”
Adams, and sophomore James Jeffery, will be looked at to man the middle of the Cards’ defensive line. Another local product, Adams has played in 15 games during his two years on campus earning his first two career starts last season. Jeffery is a versatile athlete who is strong enough to play in the middle of the line or move out on the edge.
“Seth has had a great offseason,” said Ivicic. “He is one of those guys that bought into Coach Schultz and the new system immediately. He worked hard during the offseason to lose between 30 to 35 pounds and made a commitment to get stronger. He is a guy we want to stop the run.
“Jeffery has a little more burst off the line, but he is not quite as strong as where we want him to be,” said Ivicic. “Our plan right now is to use Seth in run situations, while Jeffery will be in more passing situations,” added Ivicic.
The Cardinals young front will be tested early facing off against North Texas on Saturday, Sept. 2nd. The game against the Mean Green will kick off at 6 p.m. from Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas.