By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports
Kevin O’Brien and the Endicott College defense have been a unit to watch this fall.
Through five contests, the Endicott defense has limited opponents to just 17.2 points per game, which is roughly five points less than what this unit yielded to opposing teams through five weeks last season.
O’Brien, who is in his third season with the Gulls, credits defensive coordinator Sean Golden for helping both he and his teammates be well-prepared for the opposing offenses they have and will face this season. Additionally, he credited his classmate Tim Russell – the two linebackers have complemented each other quite well this fall when it comes to rushing the passer to dropping back in coverage to defend the pass.
Noontime Sports caught up with the third-year linebacker to discuss the Gulls’ 2019 season thus far, but also what he did to prepare himself for a successful junior season with the Endicott defense.
Your team heads into the bye week with a 4-1 record. I know we chatted prior to the Framingham State game a few weeks ago, but did you (and your teammates) think you would be 4-1 heading into the sixth week of the season?
We knew we could be a very good team as we returned almost everyone (from last year’s squad). We were a few plays away from upsetting a very good Wesley College team (last month) but I think we have yet to play our best football which is exciting.
Through five weeks, the defense has yielded just 17.2 points per game. What has been the difference this season for the defense compared to last season (or your first season with the Gulls in 2017)?
One big difference is we have so many defensive linemen that can play good football for us. We have been regularly rotating the defensive linemen throughout the game and I think we probably have the best depth (at that position) in our conference.
Rotating and having fresh linemen is obviously good for a number of reasons and helps everyone else out.
Both last season and this season, your defense has defended the run pretty well. How have you (and the defense) been able to slow down opposing rushing attacks?
Anytime you prepare to slow down the run game or key in on a (certain) player (becomes) a group effort.
Coach Golden, who is our defensive coordinator, has been putting myself and the rest of the defense in good positions to stop the run and force teams to get into a third and medium or long situation. We then can dial something up (a play) that can get our unit off the field (and let the offense go back to work).
We face a ton of good running backs in the Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC) conference, including halfbacks from Curry College, Salve Regina University, and Western New England, so each week is a new and difficult challenge (for our unit).
With the bye week coming at the halfway mark of the season, what do you feel the defense must work on, both this week and next week heading into an important stretch, beginning with Curry College next Saturday, October 19th.
The defense has played well so far but we still have a lot to work to do.
In some games, we have let teams get into the red zone before we tighten up to get a stop. We have often lived by the motto “bend, but don’t break” when we are in the red zone.
I think we need to work on getting stops earlier and forcing teams to punt while tightening up our tackling to disguising our coverages to force turnovers.
Our offense is so explosive and has tons of options so we know the quicker we can get a stop on defense the quicker our offense can go get points (for us).
From a personal perspective, how do you feel your game has improved from last season to this season? Have you prepared differently for games this year than last year?
With another year of playing under my belt, I feel as if I’m stronger and more experienced than most players.
I’ve prepared myself a little bit differently this year (than my previous two seasons with the program). I play the “Mike” linebacker whereas last year I played “Buck,” which focuses on outside containment. Will Rivera was the “Mike” for our defense last season.
Playing “Mike” linebacker is a new challenge as I am usually always on the front side of coverage and the strongside of the run. And depending on a run or pass, I rely on calls and checks on the fly.
It is definitely a challenge but Tim Russell, who is our “Buck” linebacker has helped me out tremendously and has been playing excellent next to me.