Sacks bunching up for Jacksonville defensive line

Sacks bunching up for Jacksonville defensive line

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The ball is snapped and an immediate frenzy of collision happens on the line of scrimmage as big bodies bang each other. A defender breaks through the offensive line and slams the quarterback registering another sack.

Lately, the Jacksonville University defensive line has ringing that bell plenty and has recorded 10 quarterback sacks in just the last two games, half of the season's total.

Defensive line coach and former NFL star Ernie Logan hasn't waved a magic wand or dealt out a magic potion to his troops and is at a loss to explain what's going on, but he'll take the results which included four sacks against Limestone and a season-high six sacks against Marist last week (which ties for second all-time for JU).

"They come in bunches,'' Logan offered up. "We aren't doing anything different, we are making the same calls we have been all year, but they just come in bunches.''

While this year's sack totals are down from previous years, the Dolphins have been among the NCAA leaders several times in the recent pass, Logan seems to be getting much satisfaction out of coaching the current group.

"We may not have as much talent as we have in the past, but we are having more team play than in previous years,'' he said.

The Dolphins this year moved to a 3-4 defense, but it's 3-4 in name only as there always is a linebacker, generally Mike Klein or Montaque Mack lurking at the line making it resemble the team's more traditional 4-3.

"It's a little harder to get sacks in a 3-4 but we use the linebackers as defensive linemen,'' Logan said. "The hardest part is they aren't in our (position) meetings to refine their skills but Q Mack has played some on the defensive line so that helps.''

Also helping for the recent bagful of sacks, according to Logan is the raised level of play from redshirt sophomore Jareeq (pronounced Ger-ick, not Ja-reek) Crenshaw and junior Josh Gilmore. Each has two sacks with Klein leading the team with 3.5 sacks. Linebacker Grady Redding has three.

"Crenshaw was a linebacker when he first got here,'' Logan said. "We put him at d-line in the spring and the kid had a heck of a spring. I knew he was going to get some reps this year and help us but when TJ (Jenkins, who has 2.5 sacks) got hurt against Butler he stepped into the starting role and did a heck of a job. He's a little undersized but uses his quickness. He takes coaching well. I coach him up to do something and he tries to go out there and do it. He's one of those kids that don't make the same mistakes over and over.''

Interestingly, Crenshaw, from Loganville, Ga., puts the sack production right back on Logan's doorstep.

"It's our coach,'' he said. "He's been preaching and telling us we need sacks so we've been showing up for the games and getting them. He has been preaching that we need to step up and make plays and be the playmakers on the team and I feel like that's the reason.''

Logan also lauded Gilmore, who the coach says is playing as well as anyone on the defensive line all season after taking advantage of an injury situation on the line earlier this year.

"He played a little last year but has really come into his own this year,'' Logan said. " He wasn't listed first in camp but took advantage of another injury situation on the line. I put him in and he's never given the position back. He's stepped up this year and become the player we recruited. He's been playing well, as well as anybody up front.''

"I feel like I've improved this year,'' Gilmore, from Tallahassee, Fla., said. "I know I came in in a lot better shape than in the past and that's helped out a lot. We are learning more technique and are just trying to get to the ball and break down when we get to the quarterback. We usually over run him and miss a lot of them (sacks) so we've learned to not let the quarterback escape the pocket.''

-  Jim Nasella