I’m of the opinion that barring a once-in-a-lifetime type of talent, rarely does someone make an impact their first year in a MAC program. Your first semester freshmen are usually undersized and underwhelming, except in their own minds where they are the mid-cap that trades like a blue chip. Even transfer players are usually in one of two situations where they are either relatively unknown and transferring for a lack of playing time or they are a discipline problem that have squandered their opportunity at a top-tier program and must find their way at a MAC/SunBelt/Moutain West type locale.
Whatever may have led senior defensive end Jonathan Newsome to Muncie from Ohio State (and there still hasn’t been anything official or Earth shaking as to the reasons why) Cards fans are happy he’s here and are expecting an even more exciting 2013 than his debut 2012.
On the field, Newsome disproved my theory that new arrivals don’t have an immediate impact, as he managed to land on the All-MAC 2nd Team in only 10 games. Why didn’t he play in all, you ask? There was a small discipline issue to start last season that led to the first real test of the Lembo behavioral doctrine. For observers outside the program, some felt that a two-game "Come have a seat on the bench" punishment wasn’t severe enough, but Newsome’s lack of recidivism proves that sometimes the development tasks of a coach aren’t taken serious enough. Maybe… just maybe Coach Pete Lembo saw a reason to reach out to an unproven player in the hopes that it would turn out exactly like it did rather than casting him aside as the oft cited "discipline problem" or the ever frequent "violation of team rules" booting. It creates a connection between coach and player and perhaps a desire to prove oneself. Whatever the motivation, the results cannot be argued.
Statistically, Newsome was the team leader in sacks and tackles for loss, and as offensive coordinators will tell you, a defensive unit in the MAC that can create chaos and confusion in the opponent’s backfield doesn’t have to rely on a secondary or linebacking unit that at best was "questionable" for the Cardinals. Over the course of 11 games, Newsome was able to accumulate 12.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks. In his first year. After a two-game suspension. This season the narrative changes. Newsome sees himself coming into a second year in the system, with a full spring and summer workout seasons. Adjustment is zero, connection with the coaching staff is high, and the results on the field have nowhere to go but up.
Perhaps even more important for the Cardinals defense, whether Newsome increases production, just his presence will have tremendous impact for the unit. Offensive lines have to shift schemes to account for Newsome, thus creating opportunities across the board for his defensive front seven counterparts. The argument could easily be made that there is perhaps no one person more responsible for BSU’s success than Newsome.
People point to the skill players, but there are viable alternatives should the unthinkable happen to the more marquee names. For Newsome, as he goes so goes the defense. And as most BSU fans will tell you, as the defense goes so goes the season.
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