BOWLING GREEN - According to coach Gregg Brandon, T.J. Carswell is one of the 12 best defensive players on the Bowling Green State University football team.
Too bad for Carswell only 11 players are on the field at one time.
“T.J. Carswell is as good as any of our starters - he's a 12th starter, in my opinion,” Brandon said. “We just didn't have a spot for him” early in the season.
The junior safety has patiently waited and, when he got his first opportunity to start against Central Michigan last Saturday, he delivered. Carswell had a career-high 11 tackles as a replacement for the injured Mike Malone in BG's 23-3 win.
“He had a couple of missed assignments, which is to be expected,” Brandon said. “Otherwise, he played well, especially being thrust into that situation.”
This season Carswell has played well no matter where he has played. He came into the fall listed as a backup to Malone at safety, but he has seen action as a nickel back, as a reserve linebacker and on special teams.
“If they weren't going to let me start on defense, I was going to be the best player on special teams,” Carswell said. “I just tried to take advantage of the times I was on the field.”
He has certainly done that, ranking sixth on the team in tackles with 28, including eight solo stops.
Carswell has been BG's best special-teams player this season, at least as measured by a system used by special-teams coach Jon Bowers. Members of BG's special teams get “production points” for things such as completing assignments, making tackles or big hits.
So far this season Carswell has 110 production points, 20 more than the next-highest player on the list.
The Falcons also have tried to get the 6-1, 205-pound native of Irwinton, Ga., on the field with the defense. In fact, they've tried to devise schemes that use him at a variety of different defensive positions.
“We've said all along that T.J. deserves to be on the field,” said defensive-backs coach Steven Wilks. “It was just a situation where Mike Malone and James Morton are seniors, they're starters, and they're our leaders out there. So we always try to find ways to get T.J. on the field.”
While the coaches have tried to extend Carswell's playing time, he has tried to keep a positive attitude.
“It was a little frustrating, but I understand,” he said. “The best 11 players had to be on the field, and I had to accept my role. It's hard, but you have to be prepared for whatever happens.”
Carswell's position coach, Wilks, has noticed his attitude.
“One way [Carswell] dealt with [not starting] was to keep working hard every day,” Wilks said. “When his opportunity came, he stepped right in and made things happen. His attitude and his approach to the game has been great, going all the way back to spring.”
Carswell will get his third career start at Western Michigan tomorrow, and Wilks said the Falcons would have worked to get Carswell on the field even if Malone were healthy.
“We all know Western is going to throw the football, so we've got to have speed on the field,” Wilks said. “Even if [Carswell] wasn't in a starting role this week he would play a lot.”