Bowling Green’s front seven, and defense in general, had some great moments in 2022. The stats say it wasn’t that great of a year, however, they played better than what was on paper. Let’s take a look at some personnel changes for the Falcons for the defensive line and linebackers.
There’s going to be a lot of new faces to get used to along the the defensive line this year if you’re part of the BG faithful. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- Karl Brooks (NFL Draft; sixth round to Green Bay)
This is the biggest loss for the Bowling Green defense. Brooks really came into his own in his final two seasons, solidifying himself as one of the best defensive linemen in the country.
Brooks was a sack machine in 2022, collecting 10 on the year, good enough for third in the MAC (behind EMU’s Jose Ramirez and CMU’s Thomas Incoom.) Brooks was the first BG Falcon drafted since Scotty Miller was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, and the first BG defensive lineman since Chris Jones in 2013. The Falcons will definitely miss his toughness in 2023.
- Walter Haire (graduation)
While he didn’t have the attention that Karl Brooks had, Walter Haire was a mainstay on the d-line for the Falcons since getting his first chance to play at the end of 2018. Haire racked up 9 career sacks, and 43 solo tackles throughout his career.
- Evan Branch-Haynes (transfer from Arizona)
Not only did the offensive line get a Pac-12 transfer, so too does the defensive line, who snagged Branch-Haynes from Arizona. At six-foot-two, 290 lbs., he comes to BG with four games of experience at the Power 5 level, accumulating five total tackles in 2022.
- Anthony Hawkins
With two years of eligibility remaining, Anthony Hawkins proved to be a brute on the d-line in 2022. Accumulating 35 tackles and one sack, Hawkins started 12 of 13 games on the interior. With 24 career games played, and 19 starts, Hawkins will need to lead the interior linemen, and the Falcon faithful should be excited about his growth.
- Dontrez Brown
Like fellow D-lineman Anthony Hawkins, Dontrez Brown also has two years of eligibility remaining. Brown appeared in all 13 games, but not as a starter. With the departure of Haire, Brown will need to step up for a lot more playing time even with the addition of Branch-Haynes. Expect those two to share the workload over the course of the season.
- DJ Taylor
The second leading tackler for the Falcons had one season in the Orange and Brown, and it was very solid. With 78 tackles, and 1.5 sacks, he was able to take a good amount of the work on defense.
- JB Brown (transfer to Kansas)
JB Brown could be a big loss for the Falcons as he headed to Kansas to play for former Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold. While he ranked fifth on the team in tackles with 52, he forced three fumbles, showing off a uniquely technical trait which will come in handy for his new squad.
- Davian Mayo (transfer from Memphis)
Mayo played in 30 career games for the Tigers over the past three seasons. He made 21 tackles in 2022, and was a participant in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl. With the amount of games he has played, Mayo will definitely be a great option to give the starting linebackers rest.
- Marquette Harris (transfer from Ventura College [JUCO])
This is an interesting transfer because barely anyone knows him, but we know some of the best players can come from the community college level. Harris accumulated 31 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and an interception last year. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact he’ll have right out of the gate.
- Darren Anders
One of the biggest pieces of offseason news was that Darren Anders had entered the transfer portal. There was the question of “Who’s going to step up for the linebackers?” when he made that choice. He eventually decided to stay.
When Anders announced that he was coming back to finish his career at BG, there was a sense of relief knowing he wasn’t going anywhere. There is no doubt that Anders is the veteran heartbeat of the Falcon linebackers. Anders was the third-leading tackler for the Falcons in 2022. His career total tackles add up to 276. If he gets 24 tackles this year, he’d be only the third Falcon since 2000 to amass 300 career tackles. Judging by how many tackles he’s had over the past couple seasons, he won’t have any problem getting there.
- Demetrius Hardamon
Alongside Anders, Demetrius Hardamon will be another crucial part of the linebackers. He’s listed as an outside linebacker, but we have seen Hardamon line up with the d-line many times. As another senior on their final year of eligibility, Hardamon racked up six sacks, tying for eighth-best in the MAC, while also collecting a scoop-and-score touchdown against Central Michigan on the road.
Hardamon has explosive quickness for a linebacker, but as much strength as a d-lineman would have. He’s been known to get around the edge/overpower the interior, and get to the QB.
If you’re part of the BG faithful, there is one thing that you should wish for this year: complimentary football.
At times, it felt like the defense was being thrown out there tired. The offense had a third-down percentage of 34.04 percent in 2022. This resulted in many quick possessions, a defense’s worst nightmare. The 2022 Falcon defense measured in the bottom three of almost every major category in the MAC. If the defense is to stay fresh, the offense will need to work on sustaining their drives to give the defense time to recharge.
An aggressive and efficient front seven will almost certainly help that cause.
This is the fourth entry in a series of BGSU football previews. The next preseason piece will focus on the defensive backs. Please look forward to that! If you missed any of the previous parts, please check out our 2023 MAC Football Preseason Preview storystream here!
BG kicks off their 2023 campaign Saturday, September 2nd at noon ET, as they travel to Lynchburg, Virginia to face off against the Liberty Flames. As of now, the game is slated to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.