The defensive line isn’t considered one of the strongest aspects of the Massachusetts football team entering 2014, but it does have the potential to finish with the most improvement.
Outside of senior nose tackle Daniel Maynes, the group is considerably untested and young. Junior Robert Kitching has taken reps at nose tackle while Maynes has sat out with injury and a combination of Enock Asante, Peter Angeh and Sha-Ki Holines will handle starting reps at defensive end in the Minutemen’s new 3-4 defense.
Holines is an intriguing prospect with room to grow. He’s 6-foot-3, 260 pounds and is a redshirt freshman after transferring from UConn in September of 2013. He’s fairly raw — he didn’t start playing football until high school — yet made the “Super 26” All-State team as a local product at Commerce High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Holines practiced with the team a season ago and has all four years of eligibility remaining.
We caught up with Holines as training camp enters its second week.
On camp: “It’s been going pretty good, I’m starting to catch on more to the defense and we’re starting to play more as a team. A lot of people are starting to figure out our roles on the defensive line and are coming together as one.
His role on the defense: “My role is just to do my job and clog up gaps and make room the my linebackers to make plays.”
Picking up the new scheme: “I picked it up pretty fast. It’s a pretty easy defense, there’s a lot of plays but it’s pretty easy.”
On the vibe at practice: “The vibe is way better. Everybody is happier, there’s a more winning attitude and everybody is more positive. There’s no negative people around now, everybody is just happy.”
On finally being eligible: “I’ve been excited to play, I can’t wait to play my first game in college. I had a whole year I had to drop off for but I’ll make up for it. I was able to get stronger and bigger.”
Getting bigger and stronger: I got to catch up to the speed of college and play against two different offensive lines at UConn and here, so that helped me adjust to seeing different types of schemes and type of players.”
Working with a young group: It’s good because we know that we got a young team along the defensive line, so we know that for years to come besides Daniel Maynes that we’ll be coming back and getting a lot o chemistry. We’ll be able to bond as brothers and be able to become one of the best defensive lines in the (Mid-American Conference) and even in the country.”
The speed of the defense: “We’re starting to play a lot faster because nobody is thinking now, everybody knows what they’re doing on defense. It’s starting to click and we’re starting to get the timing right on all of our blitzes.
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli