In the first six seasons of the 2010s, the Eagle "D" has led the GLIAC in scoring defense twice and not ranked lower than fourth, and has led the league in total defense once and ranked fourth or higher five times.
With seven starters returning from a 2015 AU defense which finished second in the GLIAC in interceptions (18) and fourth in both total defense (368.1 yards per game) and scoring defense (24.8 points per game), the Eagles look to have the pieces to keep that consistency going in 2016.
The Eagle D-line loses two of its top three performers from 2015 – All-GLIAC first-team defensive end Chase Hoobler and defensive tackle Tim Lehr. It also, however, had two all-conference players returning in senior nose tackle Brandon Ehlinger (second team) and senior "stud" Adam Wallace (honorable mention). Six-and-a-half of Ehlinger's 19 total tackles last fall were for loss, and he added 2½ sacks, while Wallace had 40 total stops, 3½ for loss and a sack.
Junior defensive tackle Harrison Hoppel put up 19 total tackles, 2½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks as part of the line rotation last year, while junior Justin Wazbinski and sophomore James Prater will look to earn more time inside. At end, senior Zach Leftenant is the most experienced of a group which includes juniors Mike Buzzard and Austin Utter and redshirt freshman Tristan Reichelderfer, the Gridiron Club defensive Player of the Game of the 2016 Purple & Gold spring game.
Ashland boasts arguably the best set of inside linebackers in the GLIAC – seniors Brandon Gency and Zach Olszewski. Gency (103) and Olszewski (82) finished 1-2 on the team in total tackles in 2015, and also were 1-2 in tackles for loss – Gency 10½, Olszewski 10. For their efforts, Gency earned first-team All-GLIAC honors, and Olszewski was All-GLIAC honorable mention.
The Eagles' three returnees in the secondary are senior whip Daivon Barrow, senior safety Terrell Hudson and junior cornerback Dale Irby. Hudson, a second-team All-GLIAC pick, was AU's third-leading tackler in his first year in the program with 71 total stops to go with 4½ tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and an interception. Irby, who earned all-conference honorable mention, stepped in as a starter for the first time in 2015 and recorded three interceptions, a team-high 10 pass breakups and 43 total tackles. Barrow racked up 24 total tackles, 2½ stops for loss and two picks in four games before a season-ending injury.
Those seeking to see the majority of the time at the other secondary spots include sophomore junior college transfer Ahmauree Hastings, junior Michael Griffin and sophomore Tyren Jackson at corner, and sophomores Vince Hill and Isaiah Stiverson and junior Makai Veasley at safety.