This the seventh in and eight-part series on the 2009 Huskies.
Returning 2008 Starters: David Rybinski (16.5 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks), Steve Kovach (24 tackles, .5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown), Vaughn Rice (10.5 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception)
Returning Veterans: Kyle Kuzek, Carter Kolybaba, Craig Woloshyn, Colten Jenzen,
Losses: Ivan Brown, Tobi Sroka
New Players: Zach Hart (Saskatoon Hilltops), Alex Burko (Aden Bowman Bears), Tolo Auav’a (Medicine Hat St. Andrew College Saints), Justin deMontarnal (Lloydminster Vandals), Nathan Weilgoz (Regina Riffel Royals), Joel Seutter (Sherwood Park Salisbury Sabres), Levi Steinhauer (Moose Jaw Peacock Tornados)
Outlook: In 2008, many prognosticators thought the Huskies’ defensive line would be a weak spot on the team, as three new starters were coming into the fold, including first year defensive tackles David Rybinski and Steve Kovach. The defensive line proved to be tougher and more talented than most realized, playing a major part in the success of a defence that allowed a league low in rushing yards against (1000), passing yards against (1349), and points against (83).
This year, three of four starters are back, losing Ivan Brown to the Montreal Alouettes. Kovach and a bigger Rybinski return to the tackle positions, being pushed for playing time by veteran 300 pounders Carter Kolybaba and Craig Woloshyn. All four of these players should see significant playing time this year, as all have shown a knack for filling the holes and providing a dominating pass rush.
At the end positions, the front runners for playing time include veterans Vaughn Rice and Kyle Kuzek, as well as newcomers Zach Hart, a Saskatoon Hilltops veteran, and Joel Seutter, the Edmonton High School football MVP in 2008. After moving over from tackle, Rice had a solid year, finishing with four sacks and earning a trip to the 2008 East-West Bowl. Kuzek, who was a CJFL All-Canadian in 2007 with the Okanagan Sun, did not see much action but still finished with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery. Both of these players will be counted on to step up and replace the pass rush of Ivan Brown, who finished second in the Canada West in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for a loss (11.5). Zach Hart, who had 15 tackles and three sacks as a second year player with the Hilltops, will be sure to see plenty of the field as part of the defensive line.
The key to success for this defensive line will be consistency, as there is not likely to be a Brian Guebert-like star on the team. That is not to say that these players don’t have the potential to break out with big seasons, as Rice and Kuzek have the speed and power to take their games to the next level, while Kovach and Rybinski are likely to be better with a year in the CIS and the Huskies’ defensive system under their belts. However, as we’ve seen on past Huskie teams, the defensive line typically does the dirty work, forcing the opposing quarterback to make quick decisions or filling all the a and b gaps at the line, allowing the linebackers and defensive backs to make the play and get the glory.
A lot is expected of this deep and talented group and they, along with the tremendous athletes in the linebacking and defensive secondary corps, will be counted on to repeat, or even improve on, their performance of 2008.