By Paul Mroz
KINGSTON, R.I. - Experience is the strength for the defensive line heading into the 2017 season, where Rhode Island returns all of its rotational starters from last year.
Leading the defensive unit in the trenches are a pair of linemen with all-conference accolades to their credit. Senior Jose Duncan (Bronx, N.Y.) was a 2016 CAA Football Third-Team All-Conference selection a year ago. The 6-3 defensive tackle started all 11 games last season, providing versatility as he racked up 44 tackles, six tackles for loss and a team-high four sacks. The veteran looks to continue to be the Rams' primary threat along the defensive front.
Alongside Duncan is fifth-year senior Mike Ezirike (Laurel, Md.), who has four years of game experience. Ezirike - who earned CAA Football Third-Team All-Conference honors in 2015 - made four starts last season, compiling 14 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, and one sack. Ezirike's greatest impact was his ability to occupy oncoming blockers, freeing up lanes for his teammates to make plays.
Edge rushing threat William Mack III (Spring Valley, N.Y.), returns after appearing in 11 games as a true freshman, a season in which he totaled 17 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two sacks, and one fumble recovery. A sophomore, Mack is most often used to get after the quarterback, as he blew past opposing offensive lineman on many plays. Sophomore Brandon Ginnetti (Hamden, Conn.), redshirt junior Monte Sinisi (Manasquan, N.J.), and redshirt sophomore Tyrone Barge (Philadelphia, Pa.) will also have a stronger presence on the line, as they were rotational and situational players last season. Ginnetti, a true sophomore, was a standout in the spring game and last season. As a freshman, he accumulated 10 tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery, which he returned 65 yards for a touchdown in the season finale against Towson. Sinisi, known for his high energy, will be a redshirt junior and provides depth at defensive tackle. Barge's presence was felt whenever he was on the field, as he was constantly clogging holes at nose tackle
The experienced defensive unit will have a new face, as junior Tez Wilson will be moving from outside linebacker to defensive end. Wilson appeared in 11 games, starting nine, as a sophomore. At outside linebacker, he was active, recording 43 tackles and a team-best eight TFLs. Wilson provides speed and length off the edge on third down. Also switching positions is sophomore Raees Johnson, who will be moving to defensive tackle after starting nine of the 11 games he played on the offensive line as a true freshman.
Adding depth for the Rams are Geoff Horwitz and Andre Bibeault. Horwitz primarily appeared on special teams last season, playing in 5 games. Spending the season as a redshirt, Bibeault missed the spring do to a foot injury, but is primed to see the field early on next season. Finally, URI added two new incoming freshmen to the defensive line, Emil La Marca (Paramus, N.J.) and Joe Morrisey (West Hartford, Conn.). La Marca was a standout in high school for Paramus High School in New Jersey, in which he earned All-State, All-League, and All-County honors. Morrisey will also be added to the mix of stout defensive lineman.
Check out GoRhody.com Wednesday for a look at the 2017 Specialists.
Camp Preview: Duncan, Ezirike Lead Experienced Defensive Front
By Paul Mroz