Winningest Active DIII Coaches | Top Teams to Watch in 2012 | Top Offensive Players
It's tough to be the best in the country in any given year. It's even tougher to do it again. Several top defenders returning in 2012 will be looking to lead the nation again, while others eye to knock them off. Check out five of the best right here.
Bobby Fischer didn't lead the country in interceptions, but he was pretty close. In fact, only one person -- Coe's Demetreus Johnson -- had more than Fischer's seven INTs in 2011. Fischer hopes to pick up where he left off, as he grabbed three interceptions in the season finale last year against Hamline. He took those three back for 99 yards, his highest total of the year, topping his 85-yard return for a touchdown against Concordia-Moorhead.
Saint John's (Minn.) Athletics
Nobody in Division III had more tackles last fall than Knox's Mike Hendrick. The linebacker totaled 157 tackles in 10 games, with his 15.7 tackles per game leading Division III by more than a tackle per contest. In fact, only four players averaged more than 13 tackles per game in 2011, and Hendrick is the only one of the four returning this fall.
Few offensive linemen could stop Ohio Wesleyan's James Huddleston in 2011 as he led the country with 23.5 tackles for loss, including 21 solo stops behind the line of scrimmage. Even a cast on his right forearm didn't slow him as he recorded a season-high 6.0 TFLs against Oberlin in the next-to-last game of the season. All said, he forced teams into 100 yards lost last fall.
Ohio Wesleyan Athletics
The national leader in interceptions in 2011, Demetreus Johnson posted eight INTs, including two picks in three of the last five games of the year. Johnson also scored touchdowns on interceptions in back-to-back games against Luther and Loras in October. He added three pass breakups, 25 tackles and blocked one kick in an all-around impressive junior campaign.
Linfield's Tyler Steele returns in 2012 looking to finish off an impressive career that includes 106 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss and 12.0 sacks from his defensive tackle position. Last year, Steele ranked eighth nationally with 1.0 sacks per game (11.0 total) after posting just 2.0 sacks in his first two years combined. He also was 35th in tackles for loss (1.64 per game), helping Linfield rank No. 1 in sacks and tackles for loss as a team.