Bowling Green State University linebacker Paul Swan sacks Temple quarterback Chester Stewart during a game last season.
BOWLING GREEN -- Because the Bowling Green State University football team returns all 11 defensive starters from last season -- not to mention its top eight tacklers -- it's easy to miss some of this unit's standouts.
Seniors Chris Jones and Dwayne Woods both are two-time All-Mid-American Conference performers, so they are hard to miss. But linebacker Paul Swan is one of the players taking steps that will get him recognized as one of the Falcons' top defenders, too.
Swan received recognition from his teammates this spring when they chose the 6-foot, 230-pound junior as a team captain.
The native of Nashotah, Wis., said that is a responsibility he doesn't take lightly.
"I want to help lead this team in the right direction," he said. "I want to bring it every day and be a leader, both vocally and as an example.
"The expectations are high -- we all expect to do big things. But you have to take it one day at a time."
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson agreed that the expectations are high for Swan, who finished fifth on the team in tackles last season with 63.
"Paul Swan is a returning starter who came back here in the best shape of his career," Clawson said. "I expect him to have an even better year than last season."
Swan said the return of all 11 members of the defense has helped the unit jell quickly this fall.
"I think we're more up-tempo than we have ever been," he said. "From spring ball to now we've watched clips, and guys are running with a different attitude, a different energy.
"Guys are working a lot harder now than I've every seen."
Swan said that attitude, combined with the unit's experience, should help solve last year's problem of stopping the run.
In 2011 the Falcons allowed 203.42 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 104th out of 120 teams in the FBS.
"The experience level is a lot higher," Swan said. "Guys know what they're doing; they are doing their assignments, being more confident out here.
"We have a lot of experience, a lot of energy. Guys aren't thinking about their job because they know what to do each time."
Clawson said stopping the run for this Bowling Green team comes down to two things.
"One is creating a new line of scrimmage, and forcing a back to cut before he reaches the line of scrimmage," he said. "From the second and third levels [linebackers and defensive backs], it's understanding what your run-fits are.
"In our defensive scheme, that means, 'What gap are you responsible for?' and 'Where do you need to [funnel] the football?' And you have to have trust that, if the player 'spills' the ball [to a certain spot], a teammate is going to be there to make the play."
Clawson added: "I think there were times last season -- the West Virginia game was a great example of this -- where some guys were in the right position and delivering the ball where they should, and their teammate wasn't there to make the tackle."
NOTES: Freshman linebacker Erick Hillmon has left the team and returned to his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. … The Falcons will scrimmage again on Saturday starting at 5 p.m. ... The Falcons open the season Sept. 1 at Florida in Gainesville.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.