During training camp they talked about wanting to be more physical and getting more pressure on the quarterback. The move of junior Walter Stewart to defensive end full-time could help bring consistency to the Bearcats’ pass rush and pass defense.
“I am lot more comfortable at the defensive end spot,” said Stewart. “I am just happy to help the team and put my hand on the ground and do what I can do.”
Last season, Stewart rotated between linebacker and defensive end probably to the detriment of his own stats. He finished 2010 with just two sacks and eight tackles for loss. Now he hopes to reach double figures in the upcoming season.
Coach Jones takes the importance of a pass rush to another level.
“That’s critical,” he said. “We didn’t get enough quarterback hurries in the past. We didn’t have enough sacks. Everyone sees the secondary, but there’s so much more that goes into playing great defensive football. It’s your linebackers being in pass drops and pass coverage and it’s applying pressure, being able to generate pass rush with four when you’re in a three-down situation. Everything starts at the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively. That’s where our defensive line has to take great strides, in our ability to rush the passer.”
Both Jones and Stewart agreed that stopping the run and making a team one-dimensional also benefits the pass rush. Austin Peay’s rushing offense will pose a challenge to the Bearcats in Saturday’s opener.