The BGSU front seven emerges as one of the most productive positional units in the MAC overall, with at least four all-MAC players coming back in 2022, and a litany of other emergent options to help shore up a defense which was one of the best in the conference by total yardage in 2021 (379.9 yards per game.)
It was a defense often betrayed by a mediocre offense in 2021, doing what it could to keep BGSU in more games than they probably should have been in— especially against Minnesota, a victory which saw the Falcons limit what would become a 9-3 Golden Gophers team to just 10 points.
They’ll once again shoulder the load for a team which seeks to return to .500 ball in 2022, and will certainly give opposing coordinators something to think about when game-planning for BGSU.
Here’s who is expected to contribute to the front seven’s attack in 2022 for BGSU:
The defensive line returns all three starters in 2022, a great sign for a defense which was a Top 50 unit in generating sacks (30, t-49th) and tackles-for-loss (75, 45th) in the 2021 campaign.
Leading the pressure from the three-man front is edge rusher Karl Brooks, a 2021 third-team all-MAC down lineman who picked up 42 tackles, 12.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks in 2021. Opposite Brooks was true defensive end Walter Haire, who wasn’t too shabby himself, amassing 38 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks. The duo was efficient in causing pressure, making up nearly half of the team’s sack totals on their own.
Anthony Hawkins returns to the line at the nose tackle position as the projected starter after picking up 32 tackles for three tackles-for-loss, a sack and a forced fumble last season. Pushing Hawkins for playing time at the spot will be Billie Roberts, who was no slouch of his own in 2021 with 35 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and a half-sack in 12 appearances (with six starts.)
Jordan Porter, a former high school teammate of Roberts, could see some rotational work at the edge, while junior Dontrez Brown (19 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 12 appearances) could see time at the end spot backing Haire.
The linebacking corps is perhaps one of the strengths of the Falcons roster as a whole, returning three of their four starters, including first-team all-MAC linebacker Darren Anders and surprise newcomer Brock Horne, who burst onto the scene with a campaign which saw the under-recruited product of Romeo, Michigan, nearly pick up 100 tackles in his third-year freshman campaign.
Anders is truly the centerpiece of the defense, being an immediate true freshman contributor from 2019 onwards, with 18 starts in 28 appearances. His 2021 campaign was one to write home about, with 124 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, a forced fumble, two pass break-ups and a pick-six touchdown to his credit, an effort which earned him first-team all-MAC honors.
Horne joins him on the interior of the 3-4 defensive look, with 91 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks and an interception in the 2021 campaign.
Not to be forgotten is outside backer/edge rusher Blaine Spires, who had 30 tackles, four tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks in 2021. His likely backup is senior Demetrius Hardamon, who showed stellar potential with 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks in the 2021 season after transferring in from NAIA Georgetown [KY] in the 2019 offseason.
Rotational roles could include reps for inside backer DJ Taylor, who transfers in from Wake Forest after 31 appearances and eight starts with the Demon Deacons, and on-roster option JB Brown (22 tackles, one tackle-for-loss in 12 appearances in 2021.)
The outside role opposite Spires could see some competition, as senior Bryce Brand, formerly of Maryland and West Virginia, and sophomore Charles Rosser return as the most experienced true outside backers.
Brand, who stands at six-foot-three, 250 lbs., had 30 tackles and three tackles-for-loss in his first campaign as a Falcon in 2021, while bringing with him 30 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries from 21 appearances over four years combined service at his other stops.
Rosser, a six-foot-three, 220 lb. product of nearby Cleveland, Ohio, appeared in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman, picking up 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a half-sack in his first full campaign.