SFA Football 2012 Preview: Defensive Line

Willie Jefferson led the Southland Conference with 15 sacks in 2011.

Aug. 20, 2012

Returning: Willie Jefferson, Chris Watson, Darren Robinson, Malcolm Mattox, Lance Skyler
Newcomers: Corey Clark, Kedrick Harrison, Artrez Price, Trevor Murphy, Clay Hardee

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin defense was a key part in the Lumberjacks finishing the season on a five-game win streak, averaging just 13.6 points per game in that finishing burst; however, you can pinpoint that success even more by looking at the defensive line, who posted 37 sacks in those final five games of the year.

Those 37 sacks helped propel SFA to the top of the charts at the FCS level with 48 for the season, 15 of which came from all-America defensive end Willie Jefferson. The transfer from Baylor only managed 29 tackles in 11 games on the season, but managed to lead the conference in sacks and had his share of explosive plays, picking off a pair of passes and scoring each time. He was one of the big catalysts to SFA's strong defensive finish, registering 12 of his sacks in the final four game of the year, including 9.5 of them in two games vs McNeese State and Northwestern State.

As a sophomore, Malcolm Mattox was not far behind him, registering seven sacks of his own while finishing with 11 tackles for a loss to earn a second-team all-SLC selection. But he has bulked up for 2012 and will be asked to do his damage on the interior of the line, moving from defensive end to defensive tackle.

That move was made, in part, due to the return of speed rusher Darren Robinson, who unexpectedly was lost for the 2011 season during fall camp due to a medical issue. He has since recovered and the converted linebacker is expected to have an immediate impact on the defense with his ability to pressure the quarterback.

On the interior, Mattox is expected to be joined by Colorado State transfer Trevor Murphy. A native of Jefferson (TX), Murphy will have three years of eligibility remaining after a stellar career at JHS that ended after the 2009 season. He redshirted in 2010 for the Rams and spent time on the scout team for the `Jacks in 2011, having to sit out due to transfer requirements.

His addition, along with the return of Chris Watson gives SFA three solid choices to utilize at defensive tackle, while freshman Corey Clark and Clay Hardee give the `Jacks depth at an otherwise thing position.

Lance Skyler could also be in position to make an impact at defensive end as well after getting his feet wet as a freshman in 2011, while true freshmen Kedrick Harrison and Artrez Price both join the roster after stellar high school careers themselves.

Aug. 9 - Quarterbacks
Aug. 10 - Running Backs
Aug. 13 - Wide Receivers
Aug. 15 - Offensive Line
Aug. 20 - Defensive Line
Aug. 21 - Linebackers
Aug. 22 - Defensive Backs
Aug. 24 - Special Teams



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