A cable television week devoted to shark content marks an annual, summer milestone.
The college football season is never too far from this time devoted to the ocean’s most fearsome creatures, but one of the apex predators of the Colonial Athletic Association devotes his time to a different kind of programming.
“If you want to learn about a guy or a move you really want to do, just watch film,” Richmond defensive end and preseason CAA Defensive Player of the Year Maurice Jackson explained during the league's media day. “Coaches always say, ‘the eye in the sky don’t lie.’ The more you watch film, the more you see things close up, see things in slow motion, really see how things work mechanically.”
Jackson’s commitment to film study pays dividends. He was the CAA’s sack leader in 2018 with nine accrued over just 10 games. Blame the game tape for turning a player who said he rarely lined up at defensive end prior to college for becoming a certified man-eater.
HIGHLIGHT | John Daka flies around the edge and HAMMERS the quarterback to force a fourth down hold URI to a field goal! pic.twitter.com/WLCuZS3K1K— JMU Football (@JMUFootball) November 10, 2018
And Jackson’s one of three CAA talents returning for 2019 who ranked in the nation’s top 25 for sacks a season ago. The Colonial also welcomes back James Madison defensive end John Daka and Stony Brook defensive end Sam Kamara. The two racked up nine and eight sacks in 2018.
Also returning is first team All-CAA honoree Kayon Whitaker, whose eight sacks contributed to the historic dominance of Maine’s Black Hole Defense.
With as many dangerous pass-rushers as the Colonial boasts, quarterbacks have reason not to test the proverbial water. But Kamara said at media day that it’s just the opposite: The CAA’s quality of offenses puts the onus on its defenses to elevate their play.
“It’s tough, because we’ve got a lot of teams that got a lot of firepower. The CAA’s a good conference; always been a good conference. If you don’t come out their ready to play, you’ll get left in the dust,” he said. “But at the same time, I feel like us as a unit? We come ready to play every time.”
Stony Brook has cultivated a deserved reputation as one of the saltiest defensive sides in college football. Last season, the Seawolves reached their second consecutive FCS Playoffs on the strength of a 20.3-point per game defensive yield, 12th-best in the nation.
Stony Brook frequently turned defense into offense. The pressure placed on opponents beginning from the line helped produce six defensive touchdowns, tied with Eastern Washington for the most in FCS. And it’s not just the Seawolves who come into 2019 having flourished in this regard.
James Madison scored four defensive touchdowns in 2018; New Hampshire scored five. The Wildcats could be poised for a bounce-back 2019, in no small part due to that defense, which returns linebacker Quinlen Dean.
Dean’s another example of the CAA’s ocean of defensive talent, coming off a campaign in which he recorded 14 tackles for loss, six sacks and forced three fumbles.
When the season kicks off, the reality for offenses faced with CAA defenses is clear. The waters are swarming with sack-producing sharks ready to feed.