BOWLING GREEN — It is not entirely by design that Bowling Green State University's top seven tacklers are defensive backs and linebackers.
Yet, BG coach Dave Clawson isn't surprised defensive back Keith Morgan leads the Falcons with 52 tackles, including 31 solos, heading into today's game against Central Michigan at Perry Stadium.
“Part of it is the nature of design and part of it is we're not getting off the blocks at the first level as well as we'd like to,” Clawson said.
Statistically, a lack of push up front for the Falcons has led to opponents rushing for 203.7 yards per game or 5.8 yards per carry. It means the team's linebacker and secondary units have kept busy this fall.
It also means the Falcons defense has been prone to giving up big plays.
“Right now our margin for error on defense isn't very big,” Clawson said. “We've got to deliver the ball to the right place and the guy we're trying to free up to be the free hitter has to be able to tackle well. When we do that we've played good defense.
“But when you're not getting a lot of tackles up front it makes that open field tackle even that much more critical. When we've done that well we've played well but when we've missed that tackle we've given up big plays.”
BG's top seven tacklers through seven games do not include a defensive lineman. Linebacker Jerett Sanderson ranks second on the team with 47 tackles, including 27 solos.
Linebackers James Schneider (45) and Cody Basler (42), as well as defensive backs Jahmal Brown (43) and Roger Williams (40) round out the top six tacklers.
Defensive back P.J. Mahone is the seventh-leading tackler on the team with 21 even though he has not played in BG's last five contests after being suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Ironically, Mahone entered the season as the top returning tackler from last season after recording a team-high 95 tackles.
Reserve defensive end Darius Smith, who sees as much playing time as a starter, has recorded 19 tackles, which is tops among the Falcons' defensive linemen.
Lack of size on the defensive line is an obvious issue for the Falcons. Defensive tackle Nick Torresso (6-3, 283), who has recorded seven tackles, is the biggest of the eight regulars who rotate into the game. Four of them weigh between 230 to 240 pounds, and about half of them have been playing out of position.
“A lot of those guys that were recruited here to play those positions aren't here anymore,” Clawson said. “They left and because of that there have been a lot of guys that were recruited as linebackers that were converted to D-line out of necessity.
“So, it's not really their fault. It was a necessity because other guys aren't here.”
Finding more true defensive linemen is certainly a recruiting priority for Clawson.
“Certainly we want to recruit guys on the D-line that come in a little bigger and then we build them to be bigger,” Clawson said. “There's a certain point on the D-line you've got to be able to take on blocks and sustain the line of scrimmage.
“You just don't want to be a movement front.”
In the meantime, the Falcons are facing another tough test when they meet CMU. The Chippewas and all-MAC quarterback Dan LeFevour may pose the most difficult test during MAC play.
“This is going to be a great challenge for our team,” Clawson said. “Central is a very complete football team. Any time you can lead the conference in scoring offense [34.4 points per game] and the conference in scoring defense [15.9 ppg], it tells you this is a complete football team we're playing.
“They've got great talent on both sides of the football.”
Clawson added: “There's not a big margin for error this week. You don't slow an offense like this down by having guys in the wrong gaps and missing tackles. If we do those things these guys can really get going.”
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