'Fearsome 5' ready to wreak havoc for GVSU
Dynamic D-line returns healthy, set to lead defense
Whether it's making plays in the backfield or interrupting teammates during interviews, this fun-loving bunch of big fellas has a knack for being disruptive – and the Grand Valley State University football team wouldn’t have it any other way.
The way GVSU’s defensive line – particularly seniors Frank Boenzi, Isiah Dunning, Matt Mosley and juniors De’Ondre Hogan and Matt Judon – carries itself off the field is well-deserved because of what it’s able to do on the field: strike fear into offenses with size, strength, speed and swagger.
“We’re the sexiest guys on the team, first and foremost,” Dunning said Wednesday at the GVSU Football Media Day inside Lubbers Stadium. “No but on a serious note, we have one of the hardest working groups on the team. We spent a lot of time together as a group training this summer, and we’re a close-knit group. That’s what makes it so easy for us on the field.”
The group was consistently destructive in 2013 despite losing Judon, a defensive end, to a season-ending ACL injury just six snaps into the season. They tallied 250 total tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, an interception and a blocked kick.
Blocking them could be even more difficult in 2014 with Judon back in the mix. They’re active, aggressive and physically imposing with an average frame of 6-3, 269 pounds.
“We’ve got a pretty thick D-line,” said Hogan, who was trying to ignore a teammate untying his cleats. “We’ve got big guys inside with Frank and Dunning, we’ve got good-sized ends – we’ve got some weight on us – and just with our speed and athleticism we can bring power and can translate speed into power.
“We’re very dynamic.”
The D-line could be even more dynamic with a more agile nose tackle, Boenzi, who said he dropped 40 pounds this offseason while working out at Proforce Sports Performance Training in Batavia, Ill.
Boenzi (6-2, now listed at 295) and Dunning (6-3, 285) are both worthy of drawing double teams inside, but opposing offenses could be making a mistake by giving one-on-one opportunities to Hogan (6-2, 255), who led GVSU with eight sacks in 2013, Mosley (6-3, 255) or Judon (6-4, 255).
“I hope we scare all offenses,” Boenzi said. “Not even the O-line – I hope quarterbacks don’t want to play against us, running backs don’t want to play against us, wide receivers coming across the middle on screens don’t want to play against us – I just hope we intimidate people with our play.”
Head coach Matt Mitchell said the group has benefited from the hiring of defensive line coach E.J. Whitlow, a two-time All-GLIAC honoree at the University of Findlay from 2006 to 2010 who spent four years as a graduate assistant and defensive line coach at Notre Dame College.
Since joining GVSU in March, Whitlow has quickly established a rapport with his players.
“The biggest thing I think I can help them with is, as a former defensive lineman, I really understand what they’re going through both mentally and physically playing the position of a defensive lineman in the GLIAC,” Whitlow said. “That’s one thing I can share with them is my experiences. I know that the GLIAC is a very tough conference.”
Whitlow’s D-line certainly appears to have talent, and it may have even more depth in a pair of former high school state champions. Mitchell said redshirt freshmen Dylan Carroll (Portland, Mich.) and Cody Moore (Fishers, Ind.) should be involved in the rotation.
The team will need to be stout up front no matter who’s on the field this season, especially because GVSU has to journey through one of the toughest schedules in all of the NCAA Division II.
Fortunately for GVSU fans, this brotherhood of defensive linemen will be leading the charge for the Laker defense, and they’ll be having a good time as one cohesive unit while they’re doing it.
"We love each other, man, it's a lot of fun being with these guys," Dunning said.
GVSU begins its 2014 season on Sept. 4 at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. The game will be aired nationally on CBS College Sports.