Throughout spring practice, the Elon University football team has seen the number of players in camp dwindle — especially on the defensive end.
This is, in part, because of graduating seniors, as well as some injured players.
For the players who are still at Elon and are still participating in spring practices, the lack of depth means an increase in practice time for other players.
At the spring football game on Saturday night, the defense shone brightest at Rhodes Stadium, as the 6-3 final score showed that the increased reps are paying off for many of the returners on defense.
“We found out we are a lot stronger mentally,” said junior defensive lineman Dominic Bourne. “As a team, it took a lot out of us to keep going and going — especially for us linemen since there were only three interior linemen.”
Bourne had two sacks as he played for the maroon team, both coming in the first quarter of the two-quarter scrimmage.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound junior, who had 14 tackles in ten games last season, finished the evening with a total of 4.5 tackles.
Bourne and his fellow defensive linemen’s work caught the eye of head coach Rich Skrosky.
“I’ve been pleased with the defensive line, and that’s even with a couple guys that are out,” Skrosky said. “[Junior] Jack Williams was out, [sophomore] Dondre Howell, who we think is going to be a factor, was out, and we’ve gotten really good productivity.”
Another lineman who had a big night was senior Rob Sullivan, who finished the night with four tackles and 1.5 sacks as he split time between the teams.
“Rob was a solid player last year,” Skrosky said. “But this is really Rob’s first offseason he’s had, as he had shoulder injuries the last two offseasons. So he’s bigger and stronger and a really athletic kid.”
Elon lost two standout senior linebackers after last season as Jonathan Spain and Odell Benton finished their time at Elon. At the position, Elon will be counting on junior John Silas to continue his production from last year, when he was second on the team with 100 tackles.
But while Silas had 1.5 tackles Saturday, the standout linebacker of the spring game was senior Alexander Dawson, who had a game-high 7.5 tackles for the white team.
Dawson also added one sack toward the end of the second quarter, stopping the maroon offense on fourth down with less than three minutes to go.
After the game, Dawson was complimentary of his fellow defensive players, honing in on the defensive lineman.
“I feel, after seeing them get all of the reps, they are a lot better conditioned now,” Dawson said. “I’m seeing a lot of improvements from last year, which may not have happened if more players were involved or if we were a healthier team.”
Senior Julius Moore, who had the lone turnover, will lead the secondary for the Phoenix.
Moore caught the ball off of a deflection from fellow defensive back sophomore Chris Blair and returned it 23 yards.
Moore was the leader in interceptions for the Phoenix in 2014 with four and was fourth in tackles with 67.
Blair was third on the team in tackles with four, sliding right into the same spot he occupied in the 2014 season, during which his 98 tackles also was third-best on the team.
Blair and Moore will be joined by senior defensive backs Miles Williams (55 tackles in 2014) and Jeremy Gloston (49 tackles in 2014) in the secondary, forming Elon’s most experienced unit on either side of the ball.
With the spring practices completed, all of the players will go back to working out and getting ready for final exams. Then, after a little time off, they will return for summer workouts, with fall practice starting in early August.
On the final day of contact practice, Skrosky took one last chance to evaluate his team and liked what he saw.
“There were things that happened during the course of the spring that when you put the tape on at night after practice, you said, ‘Hey, that drill is showing up,’” Skrosky said. “So that’s a sign that we are honing in on our fundamentals.”