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Senior defensive lineman Aaron Thompson (No. 95) attempts a tackle in Stony Brook’s 14-9 win against Howard on Nov. 9, 2015 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. CHRISTOPHER CAMERON/STATESMAN FILE

After a season of defensive success, there are many questions for Stony Brook Football coming into this season. The lack of experience at linebacker and a loss of talent on the defensive line will be issues that the Seawolves will have to tackle. The Seawolves ranked No. 1 in run defense in the Colonial Athletic Association last year, with defensive end Victor Ochi anchoring the front line. With Ochi now in the NFL, Stony Brook will look for a leader on defense to continue their success.

“Whenever you lose very good players, you don’t know how you’re actually going to be,” head coach Chuck Priore said. “But I think we have enough players on defense and as good as those kids are, there are other kids around them that made them as good as they are.”

Priore will rely on senior defensive back Jaheem Woods and junior defensive back Tyrice Beverette to lead the secondary. Senior defensive lineman and CAA Preseason All-American Aaron Thompson will lead the four up front. With a young linebacker corps in tow, the Seawolves will need their secondary to step up and line to keep up its dominating performance as it has done in past years.

“We got some depth at the corner position,” Priore said of the team’s secondary. “We have a couple young kids in the secondary that are going to help us—Gavin Heslop and Synceir Malone who both redshirted last year. Overall, we got enough guys and they got to play their responsibility.”

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The team starts off with two offensive powerhouses in the first two games. Stony Brook defeated North Dakota 13-9 on Thursday night and are set to take on Temple’s all-time leader in touchdown passes, completions and total offense, quarterback Phil Walker on Sept. 10. While North Dakota sophomore running back John Santiago tested the strength of the Seawolves’ defensive line and edge rushers, Walker presents the secondary with one of its biggest tests of the season.

Games against last season’s CAA co-champions Richmond on Sept. 17 and William and Mary on Nov. 11 will also present Stony Brook with tough defensive matchups. Last season, the Tribe shut out the Seawolves 21-0, with then-junior running back Kendall Anderson’s 50-yard rushing touchdown as the nail in the coffin. Richmond advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals last season and is 4th in the coaches poll.

Priore emphasized that coming together as a team would be crucial for the Seawolves to win these games.

“We have to learn how to handle adversity to come back whether it’s in a game or in five minutes,” Priore said. “I want to play as a team. The most discouraging thing is, ‘How do you handle the adversity?’ and there’s things you have to do. This team worked hard to be a team.”

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Player to Watch: Tyrice Beverette

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Junior defensive back Tyrice Beverette (No. 6, above) playing against North Dakota on Sept. 1, 2016. The Seawolves won the game 13-9. ARACELY JIMENEZ/THE STATESMAN

Junior defensive back Tyrice Beverette is poised for a big season. The New Jersey native was named third team All-CAA Football last season after recording 47 tackles, which tied him for third on the team. With a leadership role, Beverette will have to outdo himself if the Seawolves defense wants to succeed.

Although he is a defensive back, Beverette seems to have a knack for getting into the backfield. He recorded seven tackles and a sack on Thursday night. Last season he tallied 3.5 tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks in eight games.

Last season, Beverette’s season was cut short when he suffered a high ankle sprain against Elon in a Halloween day 21-7 loss. While the average recovery time for a high ankle sprain is four to six weeks, stiffness can still occur. Beverette will have to prove that his ankle is healthy enough to still be an effective edge rusher.

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