Former defensive end making himself at home with linebacking corps

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

Size was a big reason the SIU football defensive coaches moved a defensive end from the only position he had ever known.

Senior outside linebacker Calvin Belts played defensive end almost exclusively since he started playing football his sophomore year of high school. This year he sees the field differently. 

At 6 feet 2 inches and 225 pounds, Belts’ body type leaves him in limbo between a typical defensive end and an outside linebacker. 

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The average outside linebacker on the Saluki roster is just less than 6-foot-2-inches and just more than 216 pounds. Belts is closer in height to the average SIU defensive end, just more than 6-foot-3-inches tall and more than 261 pounds. 

Defensive line coach Austin Flyger said Belts’ size prompted the move to outside linebacker.

Belts said he prefers outside linebacker where he is responsible for knowing the entire scheme of the defense. As a lineman he only had to know what gap he was assigned to. 

“[Playing linebacker] is a lot more thinking,” he said. “It’s challenging, but that’s what makes it more fun.”

Belts said he has noticed a difference in the toll outside linebacker takes on his body compared to defensive end. 

“It’s a different kind of hurt,” he said. “[On the line] we just get a lot of nicks and bruises, but at linebacker, your legs are sore from running around so much.” 

Belts said his experience playing basketball in high school — in which he helped Richmond Heights High School win back-to-back Missouri state championships — helped prepare him for the move to linebacker because of the similar movement in the sports. 

Belts is listed second on the depth chart at strong side outside linebacker behind senior Blake Mattson.

Outside linebackers coach Travis Stepps said Belts is not a starter, but he is moving in the right direction.

“He has a long way to go, but he’s doing pretty well,” Stepps said. “He’s right there in the top four, and any of those guys have to be ready to play.” 

Belts notched 12 total tackles and three sacks in 22 career games at defensive end. 

Belts saw action at linebacker in the season-opener at Indiana but did not record any tackles.

Thomas Donley can be reached at t[email protected] or on Twitter @tdonleyDE. 

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