2 sopho­more lineback­ers ready to step up for Tigers de­fense

Wal­lace, Ted­der ex­pected to be lead­ers for young unit

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee By Ed­ward Lee

KDion­dre Wal­lace and Chris Ted­der are team­mates, class­mates, room­mates — and com­peti­tors.

Each en­tered his fresh­man year vy­ing for time at in­side line­backer in the Tow­son foot­ball team’s 3-4 de­fen­sive align­ment. That might have been awk­ward for two play­ers who live to­gether at home and on the road, but they even­tu­ally grew to ap­pre­ci­ate each other’s pres­ence on the depth chart.

“If we com­pete with each other, we make Navy Mary­land Johns Hop­kins, Mor­gan State each other bet­ter,” said Wal­lace (Arun­del), a Bal­ti­more res­i­dent. “That’s how it is.”

Added Ted­der: “We’re def­i­nitely com­peti­tors, but I feed off him ev­ery time he makes a good play be­cause that makes me want to make a play.”

In the end, Ted­der and Wal­lace got the

op­por­tu­ni­ties they cov­eted. They started the fi­nal six games of last sea­son for the Tigers, im­press­ing team­mates, coaches and ob­servers.

Now, the sopho­mores are ex­pected to an­chor the in­te­rior of a de­fense that ranked fourth in the Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion in 2015 in points and yards al­lowed per game.

“I al­ways worry about the sopho­more slump for ev­ery fresh­man that ever plays, but with th­ese kids’ work ethic in the off­sea­son I don’t even think about it,” coach Rob Am­brose said. “Asopho­more slump is [a player think­ing] ‘I got it.’ In­stead of say­ing, ‘I got it,’ they’re like, ‘I’ve got to get bet­ter.’ ”

In some ways, the 6-foot, 215-pound Ted­der and the 6-0, 249-pound Wal­lace mir­ror each other. The lack of what some coaches would call pro­to­typ­i­cal size might have played a role in NCAA Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion pro­grams over­look­ing them. And the pair agreed that the tran­si­tion from high school to col­lege — es­pe­cially aca­dem­i­cally and so­cially — re­quired con­sid­er­able ad­just­ment.

Their dif­fer­ences are ev­i­dent on the foot­ball field, ac­cord­ing to in­side lineback­ers coach Matt Hach­mann.

“I think Dion­dre is a big­ger, a lit­tle more pow­er­ful, a lit­tle more ex­plo­sive foot­ball player,” said Hach­mann, also the team’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. “When Dion­dre hits you, you re­ally feel it. He is a very phys­i­cal player. Chris is a very in­stinc­tual foot­ball player. Chris does things nat­u­rally well. Chris does things nat­u­rally right with­out us hav­ing to coach him too much.”

De­spite their rel­a­tive in­ex­pe­ri­ence, Ted­der and Wal­lace prac­ticed well enough to back up starters Malik Jack­son and Eric Handy (Wilde Lake).

And af­ter five games, they started at Stony Brook on Oct. 17.

“I wasn’t ner­vous be­cause we were pre­pared,” Wal­lace said. “We were pre­pared be­cause we prac­tice. If I take reps off be­cause I’m a two or a three, I’m not get­ting the guy in front of me bet­ter. So we all pre­pare the same. Any­thing can hap­pen in a game. Any­thing can hap­pen at any mo­ment in time, and you’ve got to be ready.”

Wal­lace fin­ished with 45 tack­les to rank sixth on Tow­son and added a sack, a re­cov­ered fum­ble and a forced fum­ble.

Ted­der had an even more im­pres­sive run, com­pil­ing 55 stops (to rank fourth), a sack and an in­ter­cep­tion. He was the first player

Tow­son at a glance

Coach: Rob Am­brose (eighth sea­son, 43-41) 2015 record: 7-4 over­all (5-3 in the CAA) Ex­pected fin­ish: sixth in CAA pre­sea­son poll 2016 SCHED­ULE Date Op­po­nent, Time Sept. 3 at South Florida, 7 p.m. Sept. 10 Saint Fran­cis, 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at Vil­lanova, 3:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at Rich­mond, 3:30 p.m. Oct. 8 Stony Brook, 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Dart­mouth, 1:30 p.m. Oct. 22 New Hamp­shire, 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Delaware, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 5 Elon, 2 p.m. Nov. 12 Wil­liam & Mary, noon Nov. 19 at Rhode Is­land, noon in Tigers his­tory to be named the CAA’s Co-De­fen­sive Rookie of the Year.

But rather than rest on those lau­rels, Ted­der and Wal­lace have worked ex­ten­sively to im­prove, ac­cord­ing to Hach­mann.

“I think they’re a lot more com­fort­able in their roles,” he said. “Last year, they came in and didn’t know what to ex­pect. Here, the ex­pec­ta­tions are high for them, and they’ve been able to han­dle that pretty well. They had to come in, be the starters, pro­vide a lit­tle bit of lead­er­ship, an­chor the de­fense to some de­gree, and that’s not al­ways easy. When you come in as a fresh­man, you don’t re­ally know what to ex­pect and you’re just go­ing. When the ex­pec­ta­tions are laid out for you, it’s hard to live up to them. But I think they’ve both been able to live up to them and they’ve been able to suc­ceed.”

With six starters gone from last year’s de­fense, the spot­light is on Ted­der and Wal­lace to help mold the unit be­fore Sat­ur­day’s sea­son opener at South Florida. But Wal­lace said he and Ted­der have no fears about that task.

“There’s not a lot of pres­sure be­cause we have a lot of lead­er­ship around us,” he said. “We know we’re not go­ing to do it by our­selves. We know that when we step out here, there are nine other guys that are go­ing to step out with us. So there’s no pres­sure. If ev­ery­body does their job and we stay to­gether as a brother­hood, life’s easy.”

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Rookie Keenan Reynolds is try­ing to make the Ravens as a wide re­ceiver and re­turn spe­cial­ist af­ter star­ring at quar­ter­back for Navy.

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