Injury riddled defensive line showing resilience

By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

The average starting defensive lineman in the NFL plays about 700 to 800 snaps a season. Some Saluki defensive linemen might have that many snaps by the end of the season.

SIU football has had injuries across the defensive line so far this season, limiting the unit.

With 11 defensive lineman on the roster, only three of those players are defensive tackles. With one of them currently injured, it has led to some shuffling of positions. 

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Senior nose tackle TJ Beelen had a knee injury in a road loss to Western Illinois on Oct. 3, ending his year. Freshman Nate Sylvester shifted inside to nose tackle from defensive end to replace him; he also suffered a knee injury in practice three weeks ago. 

Junior tight end Shaq Findlater was moved permanently to defensive end after the injuries. His first game in the new position was against North Dakota State on Oct. 31 in a 35-29 loss. 

Defensive coordinator David Elson said Findlater asked coach Dale Lennon if he could switch positions to help the team. 

“He came to us and was very eager to help out wherever he was needed,” Elson said. “There’s definitely a learning curve for him, but he’s progressing every day.” 

Findlater did not have any catches at tight end, but has recorded two tackles on defense. 

The team also lost senior defensive end Adam Brandt on Nov. 2 when Lennon released him from the team because of a violation of team rules and personal reasons. 

Brandt had 20 tackles and one and a half sacks when he was dismissed. 

Elson said the injuries and the dismissal are a concern, but it brings a next-man-up mentality to the team. 

“You don’t really worry about it because of how many guys we have on our team that are capable of stepping in and filling those holes,” he said. 

Senior nose tackle Raysean Golden said despite the injuries to his teammates, he doesn’t plan on slowing down. 

“I do get a little exhausted during practice but [defensive line] coach [Austin] Flyger does an excellent job of pushing us to be our best,” he said. “I’m motivated to get after it every day and help the younger guys get ready for game day.”

The Salukis play their final game Saturday against Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TedWard_DE

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