Kimbrough, Grier heart of ASU defense
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
It’s also young.
The Mountaineers’ defensive two-deep depth chart includes just four seniors, all who are starters. Two are preseason All-Americans, including cornerback Demetrius McCray.
Middle linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough is the other All-American. Weakside linebacker Brandon Grier would like to join Kimbrough on All-American teams at the end of the season.
If there is a heart of the Mountaineers’ defense, it starts with Kimbrough and Grier. First of all, the two linebackers led the Mountaineers in tackles last season. Kimbrough led the team with 105 tackles, 12 of them for minus 36 yards. He also had four sacks for minus 22 yards.
Grier finished with 97 tackles, 10.5 of them for losses. He had two sacks for minus 19 yards in losses.
The defense faces somewhat an unknown East Carolina offense when they play the Pirates at noon Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. They take on an East Carolina team that faced quarterback issues until Monday when coach Ruffin McNeill named Rio Johnson the starter.
East Carolina also does not have a running back that gained more than 500 yards last season.
The Pirates return Reggie Bullock, who gained 428 yards in six games, but he is second on the depth chart to Michael Dobson, a junior who finished with 221 yards on 63 carries last year.
Those are not necessarily big numbers, but that doesn’t matter to Kimbrough, who feels there are no easy games on the Mountaineers’ schedule this season.
“We have no cupcake games,” Kimbrough said. “We know it’s going to be a big challenge, but that’s why we all come here. We know we’re going to get everybody’s ‘A’ game and those games are just going to be rockin’. It’s what players play for. It’s going to be a good competitive match and we’re preparing for it right now.”
Kimbrough feels Appalachian State is deep at the linebacker position, but knows the Mountaineers’ depth is young.
Freshman John Law backs up Kimbrough, while former linebacker Tashion Singleton was moved to defensive end.
Greg Hall, another freshman, is the backup at the “bandit” position, a player that plays defensive end and linebacker depending on the Mountaineers’ alignment. Veteran linebacker Brandon McGowan adds to the Mountaineers’ depth.
“We’re extremely deep. We’ve got like seven or eight guys who are really capable of playing at any moment,” Kimbrough said. “We’re really deep this year, so God forbid injuries happen, but if they do, I think that we’ll be extremely fine with all the players we’ve got at linebacker this year.”
Grier said it’s up to the linebacking corps to provide leadership to a young defense.
“We take pride in our defense,” Grier said. “We’ve got strong points in every aspect — our d-line linebackers and DBs. As linebackers, if the team is not going so good, we have to step up and say ‘If we want to do this, if we want to do that, then we have to step up and find a way to win. We have to lead the defense. We have the most experience other than the DBs on the field.”
The Mountaineers’ offense is even younger than the defense with just one senior — running back Rod Chisholm — in the starting lineup. Grier has faith that the offense will do its part, even if it takes a couple of games to get warmed up.
“I think the offense is going to be ready,” Grier said. “They looked real good in the spring, especially with the new tempo they have. If it comes down that way, we’ll be up to the challenge. I think the first few games the offense will be clicking on all cylinders and we’ll be in midseason form.”