Mar 3, 2011, 1:41 PM EDT
This is part two of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. Part one looked at Braxston Cave.
If Sean Cwynar walked into this season as a somewhat anonymous player, he’ll enter 2011 as one of the key building blocks along the defensive line. After sitting out his freshman season, Cwynar played sparingly in 2009, chipping in three tackles as a defensive tackle in 2009. With the Irish’s shift to the 3-4 defense, Cwynar looked like a square peg aimed for a round hole, but after Ian William’s knee injury against Navy, Cwynar filled in admirably, racking up a dozen tackles down the stretch run as the Irish defense played its best football of the season.
While fans anticipate the debut of Louis Nix and the emergence of defensive tackles Brandon Newman and Hafis Williams, Cwynar only now becomes an upperclassmen from an eligibility standpoint, giving the Irish a versatile disruptor that can play both inside and out. While he may not be a pure 3-4 nose guard (interestingly, he’s the only player listed as a “Defensive Tackle” on the official Irish roster, the rest of the DTs are listed as “Nose Guard”), Cwynar’s speed and athleticism are crucial for Bob Diaco’s defense to continue their upward trend into 2011.
At defensive tackle, it was Ian Williams and everybody else to open the 2010 season, but when Williams went down, Cwynar and Hafis Williams played admirably in his place, with the Irish defense playing more multiple fronts to help both schematically and because of personnel. After the Utah victory, head coach Brian Kelly had this to say about a defense that was just starting to emerge.
“There’s other guys that are obviously doing some very, very good things, and getting better at doing them,” Kelly said. “Sean Cwynar is now really playing with a consistent manner every snap.”
Cwynar’s productivity is most noticeable on the stat sheet, where he finished fourth among defensive linemen in tackles with 33.
100 word preview for Sean Cwynar in 2011:
Cwynar could very well be a player coming into his own in 2011. If he is, expect the Irish defense to become a dominant unit next season, with a veteran defensive line leading the way. The pedigree for a standout defensive tackle is there — elite recruiting ranking, proper development thanks to a redshirt freshman year, and a 2010 season that showed Cwynar playing disruptive football along the interior. He’ll never be a true nose guard, but there’s an awful lot of former Irish DT Derek Landri in Cwynar, and the Irish could use a monster year like Landri’s 2006 season.
Importance in 2011:
Cwynar might not be as important as great play from the defensive tackle position, and whoever is taking snaps there has seen the bar Ian Williams set with a rock-solid 2010 season. That said, there’s nobody on the roster in better position to breakthrough there than Cwynar, and if he does, Diaco’s defense should thrive and be as versatile as ever.