Buffalo last week created a blueprint for the rest of the Mid-American Conference on how to not block Treyvon Hester.
Don’t attempt to do it with one guy.
Hester, the gargantuan freshman nose tackle for the University of Toledo, torpedoed several first half drives Tuesday as the Rockets jumped out to a 38-point lead in a 51-41 home victory. Veteran center Trevor Sales learned early he’s no physical match for the 6-foot-3, 290-pound wrecking ball from Pittsburgh, who blew up the line of scrimmage for three first-half stops of no gain or a loss.
Buffalo was Toledo’s first opponent to not double team Hester. The Bulls will probably be the last to try it as well.
“After that it took a triple team, and sometimes the back would come up and he had four guys on him,” defensive line coach Eli Rasheed said.
Hester’s rookie season has been a gradual ascent. He came off the bench the first two weeks before supplanting Chris Collins in the starting line up for the Eastern Washington game. Hester played his worst game the following week at Central Michigan, according to Rasheed, who said Hester now is “really starting to play the position the way it should be played.”
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Head coach Matt Campbell said Hester is playing his best ball of the season, a good sign leading up to the team’s huge West division showdown Wednesday against unbeaten Northern Illinois. Disrupting paths of power runners Jordan Lynch (1,273 yards) and Cameron Stingily (812) is imperative to the Rockets snapping a three-game skid to the Huskies and continuing along their path to the MAC title game.
“He’s really started to be a steady, dominant football player the last couple weeks,” Campbell said. “That’s going to have to continue for us to be successful.”
Hester is among several young Rockets whose talents and measurements exceed those commonly seen in the MAC. Hester squandered BCS offers — namely from hometown Pittsburgh — over academic concerns while being a first-team all-state selection at Penn Hills High School.
Toledo offensive coordinator Jason Candle, the staff’s top recruiter, stayed by Hester’s side and convinced him to enroll at Toledo last year. Hester did not join the team until this past fall camp, at which time he had been away from the sport for nearly two full years.
Hester’s power belies his rookie status. At Bowling Green last month, Hester yanked down ballcarrier Travis Greene by the back of Greene’s jersey for a loss. Against Buffalo, Hester blindsided Joe Licata for a punishing sack. He has 3½ sacks and six tackles for loss among his 30 tackles.
“He certainly frees up our linebackers to make plays,” Campbell said.
“Our linebackers have made more plays this year. That’s not because they’re better linebackers. I think it’s because our defensive front has been so dominant at holding those guards and tackles from getting to the second level. That’s really allowed those guys to be efficient.”
Hester is among six first- or second-year players in the defensive line rotation. He could not speak for this story per the program’s policy forbidding media from interviewing freshmen.
“I think Hester’s a beast, there’s no question about that,” said linebacker Chase Murdock who benefitted from Hester drawing a double team against Buffalo to blitz for a sack.
“Big Hes, he’s really developing and he’s been doing good all year and only getting better. I think as the season goes on and even into next year, we’re just going to keep seeing more and more.”