BOWLING GREEN – The uniform for every member of the Bowling Green State University football team’s defense has the same feature.
Every player’s name is taped onto the front of his helmet, which makes sense when you consider that every member of the defensive coaching staff was added just before the Falcons began spring practice. But it is also a necessity for the defensive line, which boasts a number of unfamiliar faces.
“There’s a lot of youth there – and some of those guys are going to have to play,” BG coach Mike Jinks said. “This spring is huge to see what we have at that position.
“We have 13 in camp, so we have some depth that means we don’t need to have them all play. But there is competition there.”
One of the few familiar faces on the line is senior David Konowalski, who has started every game the Falcons have played in each of the last two seasons. His 24 starts give him more than every other defensive lineman in camp – combined.
As a result, the 6-3, 233-pound senior from Milwaukee has become a leader of the young line.
“That’s what I want,” Konowalski said. “Leadership can be lonely, but leadership means I need to be ready to lead by example.
“I need to keep diving into the playbook, because if guys come to me with questions, it’s an honor – and I want to help them.”
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Konowalski finished fifth on the team in tackles last season with 56, and he tied with junior Kyle Junior for the team lead with 3.5 sacks. That production has elevated Junior into a role as a leader for the young line as well.
“We have to set the example better than we have,” Junior admitted. “We have to show them the right way to practice; we can’t have a malfunction out there, because if we have a malfunction, they’re going to have a malfunction when they follow us.”
Jinks said the upperclassmen have to provide leadership both on and off the field.
“A key on the defensive line is to get the extra work in, things like the nutrition piece that allows you to keep your weight,” he said. “The stuff done away from the facility sometimes is the key to being successful on the field.”
Konowalski said the he hopes the young players on Bowling Green’s defensive line are working on the same things he has focused on this spring.
“We want to execute the basics: Get our steps right, have our eyes in the right place,” he said. “If we do those things, that will take us to the play.
“I also want them to understand the pace of the game. I want them to play with a sense of urgency, to line up the right way and just go.
“We want to reach a point where we’re on the field and we play fast and physical without thinking. And we want to play with ‘juice,’ with excitement.”
Junior echoed those sentiments, adding that he sees a great deal of ability among the young players on the line.
“We’re on the rise,” he said. “Last year we would show up some times, but we weren’t there all the time.
“I see how are young guys are working – they show me that they are willing to work to get better. If we keep doing that, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
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