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SBU linebackers ready to stop all that comes at them

Stony Brook linebackers Noah McGinty (41) and Shayne

Stony Brook linebackers Noah McGinty (41) and Shayne Lawless (35 ) as well as Humphrey Anuh  (54) close down on the North Dakota quarterback during the 2016 season. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Noah McGinty and Shayne Lawless are in the business of bailing out the Stony Brook University defense when needed.

If there’s a blown coverage, a missed tackle or a botched play, the senior linebackers who have each started 23 consecutive games are there to clean it up.

“We kind of have our hand in everything,” said Lawless, who was named second-team All-CAA last year after recording 93 tackles and eight sacks. “We have our hand in the run game, run defense, and then we also have our hand in the pass defense.”

McGinty secured 96 tackles last season, while also adding a fumble recovery and an interception. He and Lawless quite literally impacted every facet of the defense.

That’s not to say they need to do much bailing out this fall, as a solid defensive line and a young secondary could provide plenty of support. Gavin Heslop, a junior defensive back, said that the strength of the front seven makes the secondary’s job easier.

Several players mentioned at media day that Heslop has the potential to be a breakout star. He started 13 games last season and collected 72 tackles, and he said he’s primed for more — even though he’ll put the needs of the team first.

“I definitely worked a lot harder than I ever did in any other offseason,” he said. “I’m not really looking to achieve any goals for myself. I just want to be the best and be in the best position I can be to help my team win.”

That unselfish attitude trickles through each member of the depth chart on both offense and defense. The Seawolves have plenty of options at nearly every position, especially on the defensive side.

Aside from the work done in the offseason, McGinty said the depth comes from the hunger of each player “to create the tone, set the tone every single day.” That competition led to several steps forward for players such as EJ Fineran, Synceir Malone and Peterson Octavien, who McGinty said are breakout candidates.

“I think it comes down to physicality,” McGinty said. “We’re just physical, and we have a lot of effort.”

The defense gets to practice against a dynamic and diverse offense each day, which Lawless said aids in game-day preparation. The defense has to account for multiple runners and receivers, all while containing the run-pass option helmed by quarterback Joe Carbone.

Intrasquad scrimmages are the only games scheduled until the season opener Sept. 1 at Air Force, but McGinty is champing at the bit. Seeing the attention at media day only made him more excited.

“It’s a little surreal,” McGinty said. “Once you start seeing the cameras and stuff, you’re like, ‘Oh man, season’s approaching.’ It’s right around here. September 1 can’t come soon enough.”

Media day didn’t feature any wild guarantees. There were no promises of a championship and no assurances of records being broken.

There was, however, one confident declaration from running back Donald Liotine, and it might not be all that outlandish.

Said Liotine: “Our linebackers, I think, are two of the best in the country.”

New York Sports