The unquestioned leader of Stony Brook's No. 1-ranked FCS total defense is senior rover back Christian Ricard, who leads the Seawolves with 45 tackles, ranks first in the Colonial Athletic Association with 14 tackles for a loss and is third in the conference with six sacks.
But there is one thing Ricard could have done to strengthen SBU's defense even more: Recruit his younger brother Patrick, who will start at defensive end for Maine Saturday night at LaValle Stadium.
Patrick, a sophomore, has 19 tackles, 41/2 tackles for a loss, 21/2 sacks, two pass breakups and one blocked kick for the Black Bears (2-3, 1-1 CAA). After Stony Brook (2-4, 1-1) lost at Maine, 19-14, last season, coach Chuck Priore kiddingly wondered how Christian's brother got away from the Seawolves.
"I always thought they knew about him," said Christian Ricard, who made 12 tackles in that Maine loss. "I didn't really press for him to come here. [Last] year, Coach P. called me into his office and yelled at me, asked me why I never told them about him. I said, 'I thought you guys knew.' "
Priore knows you can't have enough Ricards on your defense. Describing Christian's leadership role on a defense allowing only 229.8 yards per game, Priore said, "He's a coach on the field. He sees what they're doing and is able to help the rest of the defense. Everything comes out of his mouth first when we're making our checks and adjustments. He can track the ball down and he's been real good on the blitz, which has allowed us to create a lot of negative plays."
Ricard's leadership abilities became evident at David Prouty High School in Spencer, Massachusetts, where he was MVP as a senior running back and defensive back on a team that went 13-0. Brother Patrick also was on that team as a sophomore, and Ricard said that's when he grew closer with his younger brother.
"I try to be the best role model I can be," Ricard said. "That was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to play at a higher division of football because I knew [Patrick] would have a shot at it, and I wanted to show him he could do it, too."
The Black Bears have struggled on offense this season but have a capable passing attack with quarterback Dan Collins and receiver Damarr Aultman of Wheatley Heights. As well as Stony Brook's defense has played, big-play breakdowns hurt the Seawolves before last week's 14-3 win at Towson, where the defense had several critical stops in a tight game.
"That was huge," Ricard said of the Towson win. "We've struggled to finish the last two years. Last year at Maine, we lost it late. Towson last year, we lost it late. William & Mary this year, we lost it late. We just have to believe in ourselves and finish those close games. We almost doubt ourselves toward the end of the game. That's been our Achilles' heel. I believe we're past it. I hope so."