The defensive line last season was easily the strongest part of the Golden Eagle defense that was led by Dylan Bradley.
Last season, Bradley led the team in tackles for loss with 15.5 and led the team in sacks with 8.5. Bradley also totaled 64 tackles, two forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and a fumble recovery.
Replacing a presence like Bradley, much less duplicating it, is no easy task. This year the defensive line will turn to senior Xavier Thigpen, who was second to Bradley’s numbers, totaling 33 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick.
“I try to not think too much by dwelling in the past because we are always moving forward,” Thigpen said. “Dylan was a great player and is with the Vikings and has a great chance to make the team. At the same time, I have to make sure I’m doing enough for my teammates it’s not all about me.”
Thingpen’s stats alone make him the prime candidate to become the new leader of the defensive line. His idea of leadership is not just about posting numbers, but helping bring up the younger guys on the defensive line.
“I just try to be myself and just try to lead by example,” Thigpen said. “I’m just trying to practice hard, run hard and try to do what I say and make sure people see it. I make sure guys get into recovery, make sure guys see me in the training room. [It’s] not only about them seeing me, I’m going to be there regardless. You could call it being a leader, but I’m just trying to bring everybody together.”
Thingpen is not the only main force on the defensive line. Thigpen believes that redshirt freshman Jacques Turner will have an immediate impact on the team. Turner was a three-star recruit and finished his senior year of high school with 100 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
“Jacques turner he has a good knack coming off the ball, good twitch with him and he is pretty fast,” Thigpen said. “We lost Dylan Bradley and Jaboree Poole [but we] got young guys that have come in and stepped up. We’re going to miss those guys, but we got guys who can replace them.”