For the Seawolves fans out there frustrated after Saturday’s 0-2 start to the football season, there may be some reason for optimism. Allowing just one touchdown in each game, Stony Brook’s defense has been the bright spot on a team that has struggled in non-conference play.
Over the past few years, Head Coach Chuck Priore has been able to bring a lot of talent to the program by attracting Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players to transfer in. The majority of these new faces have been brought in to bolster the offense. The constant influx of new faces, however, has led to a lack of continuity on offense.
The defense, however, has begun to thrive on a group of core upperclassmen who have developed within the program. Senior rover Christian Ricard has been Stony Brook’s best defender thus far with 18 tackles and three sacks. Juniors Victor Ochi and Naim Cheeseboro have also been key to the team’s early defensive success. Saturday at UConn, each had seven tackles. Cheeseboro added a fumble recovery in the end zone for the Seawolves’ first touchdown against the Huskies.
A few new faces at linebacker have been able to round out a veteran defense. Junior Jeremy Leggiero has 17 tackles through two games and sophomore Jaheem Woods has added 11 tackles. With the loss of captain Jawara Dudley to graduation, Leggiero, Woods and Oregon transfer Rahim Cassell will be looked to to lead the linebackers.
After Saturday’s game against UConn, Priore discussed how the defense dominated the line of scrimmage. UConn was only able to run past the line on 17 of their 36 rushes and averaged only 2.2 yards per carry. This made life difficult for UConn’s backup quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who completed only 12 of 27 passes (44 percent) for 142 yards.
Stony Brook’s defense may need to continue to bail out the struggling offense. That may come easier over the next two games though, with favorable matches against Division II American International and North Dakota, a team averaging 13 points per game over the first two games.