Friday, August 16, 2013

Linebackers Preview- 2013

The Forester Linebackers will be a strength in 2013. All four starters from the 2012 MWC Conference Championship team, as do the 3 of the top 4 backups from 2013. Lead by a superb senior class of five linebackers, the Foresters will look to carry-on the tradition of outstanding backers in the Forest.

Spearheading the group will be returning 1st Team All-MWC selection Jordan Cruz. Cruz was named a team captain by his teammates following the 2012 season, and has accounted for 199 tackles, 17 TFL's, and 3 Ints during his career. Joining Cruz at the inside backer position is Junior John Preston. The Sanbornton, NH native was second on the team in tackles in 2012, and has recorded 121 tackles, 11 TFLs, and 3 Forced Fumbles despite spending the majority of his freshman year on the offensive side of the ball. Though the duo started all ten games in 2012, Senior Clint Stibbard and Sophomore Austin Van Meter will be pushing for more reps this season after seeing time in 2012 that was split between defense and special teams. The duo boasts 20 combined tackles and 1 sack.

Jordan Cruz #44 and John Preston #13

"I feel great about our interior backers. The top four guys have proven that they can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league and be successful. They have increased their football savvy each year, and are keenly aware of what they need to work on each week in practice. They are an extremely motivated group of players. These are guys that you have to saw 'Whoa' not 'Giddyup' to," expressed their position coach and Head Coach Jim Catanzaro.
John Preston takes down a St. Norbert ball carrier.

"What is even better about this position is that we have some tremendous depth in our younger classes. I see several guys that have the potential to be All-Conference before their career is over. Some of these guys just need a chance. Hopefully, they will have that opportunity throughout the season. They can really make themselves standout by being great special teams players, and competing hard against our offensive unit in practice," noted Catanzaro.

The young inside linebackers include Sophomores Mike Letizia, Luke Capone, and Sonny Valcin. Freshman inside backers include multi-time state champion Joe Nitti (Montini Catholic), transfer Patrick Boyle, and Daniel Harris who was coached by Forester alumnus Nick Hildreth at Willowbrook High School.

John Dillon puts down a Cornell Quarterback
on one of his six sacks in 2012. 
At the outside linebacker position the Foresters bring back a tandem of players that are used to playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Second Team All-MWC selection John Dillon returns for his senior season after posting 11 tackles for a loss and six sacks among his 54 tackles in 2012. Opposite Dillon is fellow Arizona native Bryce Jones. Jones has started at three different positions for the Foresters in his career before settling in as an eight game starter at outside linebacker in 2012. Jones finished the season with 51 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 Sacks, and he forced two takeaways (1 Int. and 1 Forced Fumble.) Clipping at the heals of the returning starters will be fellow Senior Jake Julius. The St. Louis native missed his freshman year due to an injury, but has recovered to be a relentless pass rusher for the Foresters. With added weight, it is expected that Julius will make a push to be an every down player.

"The returning seniors at outside linebacker, as a unit, are probably the best that I have coached at LFC. They have a unique blend of size and speed that is not common in the MWC. I know exactly what I am going to get from each of these guys on a given plan, and their understanding of our playbook is near perfection. Additionally, the intensity and focus that these guys bring is top shelf. I am confident that as they continue to make even greater strides that their production will continue increase as well," commented Catanzaro.

Bryce Jones get full extension against a
 Cornell blocker in 2012
A younger group of outside linebackers waiting in the wings include Sophomores Dariusz Balcizek, Andy Rice, and Sean Chapman. Chapman and Rice missed their freshman years with injuries suffered in camp. Incoming first-year outside linebackers include Illinois natives Wes Grigaitis, Ryan Bullock, Josh Klumack, and Joey Velasquez. Additionally, Indiana native Jack Sommer, will be entering the Outside backer race as well.

"We have several young outside linebackers that will benefit from the tutelage of our older guys. You are also looking at seven guys who have a full four years of eligibility remaining. Velasquez and Chapman were both first team all-conference guys, and team MVP's during their senior years. Rice played at one of the top programs in Arizona, Grigaitis' team went to the state semi-finals and forced 41 turnovers on defense last year. There are a LOT of reasons to be excited about this young group of linebackers," observed Catanzaro.