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A look at the defensive line

Walden, Jones lead productive unit

April 4, 2007 · MT Media Relations
The anchor of any defense is the players up front and Middle Tennessee is blessed to have all four starters and all four backups returning in 2007. Last year's unit accounted for 22 sacks, 54 tackles for loss, and eight forced fumbles while leading the SBC in rushing defense.

"We had a good year up front last season but they all know we have to get a lot better in 2007," said assistant head coach Les Herrin, who oversees the unit. "They have taken the winter program and this spring very seriously and they all are trying to get better everyday. Our goal is to develop more depth and be able to count on more people to play."

Headlining the group is all-conference ends Erik Walden and Tavares Jones. Walden is coming off a career year in which he totaled 48 tackles, a school-record 11.5 sacks to rank 10th nationally, and 14.5 tackles for loss. Along the way, the senior also became Middle Tennessee's all-time leader in sacks by running his mark to 20.5.

"Walden has approached each practice with the intent of getting better," added Herrin. "He is a smart player who knows the game and we count on him for leadership."

The other half of this dynamic duo is Jones who coaches say has an unbelievable motor. In his first year as a defensive end, Jones turned in a career season with 38 stops, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks.

"Tavares comes out everyday and gives it all he has on each play," said Herrin. "The kid works extremely hard."

Also at end is senior Sean Mosley, who started all 13 games in 2006, and produced a career season. The Sylvania, Ga., native collected 40 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and forced a team-high four fumbles in helping lead one of the top defenses in the SBC.

"Mosley is also working hard and knows that he is being pushed everyday," said Herrin. "All of the linemen know they have to get better because they can not let the guy the are playing beside down and that is great motivation."

The inside of the defensive line returns Trevor Jenkins and Wes Hofacker who combined for 24 of a possible 26 starts in 2006. Jenkins started all 13 games and collected 35 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss, while Hofacker added 19 tackles in his first season on the line. Hofacker is sitting out spring drills while recovering from an injury.

Backups Jonathan Presley, Derek Mason, and Chris McCoy combined to play in 34 total games in 2006 and all three look to be improved in 2007. Presley, a junior from Jacksonville, Fla., competed in all 13 games and had one start at tackle on his way to recording 13 tackles and a sack.

Mason, who has impressed coaches with his effort in the offseason, looks to be a major contributor in his senior season. The former offensive lineman played in 10 total games and tallied four tackles and is listed as the starter in the spring in place of the injured Hofacker.

"Derek's attitude and work habits have changed a great deal from a year ago," said Herrin. "I have been real impressed so far this spring. Now I just hope he continues this progress."

McCoy, who played defensive end in 2006 but could see more time at tackle in 2007, had six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble in 11 games last year. The sophomore has good size and athleticism and should provide valuable depth. McCoy has made the move to tackle from end this spring and Herrin has been pleased with his progression.

"Chris is improving everyday and is showing signs of getting tougher," added Herrin. "I like the direction he is going."

Also figuring in for playing time will be senior Chris Anderson, junior Brandon Perry, and redshirt freshman Andre Wicker. Anderson played in just two games a year ago while Perry competed in eight with most of his time coming on short yardage situations. Perry is enjoying a solid spring and Wicker is still making up for lost time from a year ago when he was injured.

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