BOWLING GREEN — Jairus Campbell and Ted Ouellet both face a challenge this season.
Actually, this pair of defensive linemen on the Bowling Green State University football team faces several challenges. The biggest is anchoring the line for a Falcons defense that ranked among the national leaders last season.
“We feel we’re the heart and soul of this defense,” Campbell said. “If we don’t get to the quarterback, passes will be completed. If we don’t suck up blocks, linebackers get blocked and big plays happen.
“We need to play at an exceptional level to equal what we did last year. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
Both Campbell and Ouellet are experienced and capable. A year ago Ouellet was voted All-Mid-American Conference third team by the league’s coaches after finishing with 35 tackles, including six tackles for loss and three sacks. He has been on the field for three seasons, with last season his first as a starter.
Last year Campbell, who had seen extensive action the previous two seasons, started the Falcons’ first three games and had four tackles before suffering a foot injury in the loss at Toledo that ended his season.
These two fifth-year seniors will be challenged to match or surpass their career bests this year as Bowling Green replaces the production and leadership of Chris Jones, who now is playing in the NFL.
Both Ouellet and Campbell know replacing Jones, last year’s MAC defensive player of the year, won’t be easy.
“You can’t replace Chris and the production he brought to the team, how he played the game and his leadership,” Ouellet said. “But we have enough pieces back to make up for his production.
“We may not make it up through one person, but we can make it up through a rotation.”
Campbell agreed, adding, “Chris is an amazing player. But as a group, I feel we can equal, if not achieve more, than Chris did.
“People are hungry, just like Chris was. With Chris or without Chris, we need to make plays like Chris did.”
Ouellet and Campbell aren’t the only experienced defensive linemen the Falcons return. On the depth chart behind Ouellet at nose tackle are two sophomores, Mike Minns and Taylor Royster, while backing up Campbell at defensive tackle is junior Zach Colvin.
And BG has a number of experienced defensive ends to provide pressure as well. Juniors Charlie Walker and Bryan Thomas are both returning starters after posting 34 and 33 tackles last season, respectively, and they are backed by senior Ronnie Goble and junior Kendall Montgomery.
“Defensive-line wise, we have a ton of guys back,” Ouellet said. “I think you could take our entire two-deep, and the back-ups are guys who would start on a majority of teams.
“We have a lot of depth, a lot of talent, a lot of good players. I think our young players have grown up a lot since last year, and they are guys who now could play a key role this year.”