November 12, 2009
Dragons depend on ‘book-ends’
These are not an exact matching set of bookends, the SUNY Cortland defensive end tandem of Bryan Wiley and Evan Wyler.
Still, the two players are close to being a perfect pair in a football sense.
The last names are remarkably similar, for starters.
So are their jersey numbers, Wyler No. 93 in youir program while Wiley wears No. 94.
The statistics compiled by these two disruptive players, who hope to spend most of Saturday afternoon in the Ithaca College backfield, are close to being identical. Also, they are the only two seniors who will start on defense when the Red Dragons step onto scenic Butterfield Stadium in Ithaca at high noon for the 51st annual Cortaca Jug football contest.
There are differences, however.
“Evan’s more of the speed guy, and Bryan’s more of the brawn,” is how Red Dragons defensive line coach Jason Rebovich labels the two players who have made the team’s switch to a three-man defensive line prosper. That has led to a Cortland campaign that has produced seven wins against just two losses heading into this regular season finale against the talented 6-3 Bombers.
The dark-haired and complexioned Wyler is taller and the leaner of the two, standing 6-foot-3 and tipping the scales around 250 pounds. He’s a downstate kid who played on sectional championship teams at Warwick Valley.
The light-haired Wiley is built more like the inside tackle he once was in the Red Dragon defensive scheme of things, with 285 pounds packed onto a 6-foot-2 frame. He’s from the far north regions of the state, where he once rushed for 350 yards and six touchdowns in a Thousand Islands High School victory.
It’s hard to imagine where Cortland would be without them this season, especially leading a defense that had to come up big while an offense that lost two starting quarterbacks to injury and had a brand new offensive line in place took some time to develop.
“Are they good? They’re good and I’m glad they’re on my team,” said Cortland head coach Dan MacNeill of the Wiley and Wyler combo.
No wonder. Wiley has been in on 64 tackles with 16 of those for lost yardage, including nine quarterback sacks. Wyler had been in on 58 tackles with 17 of those going for lost yardarge, including nine and a half quarterback sacks. Both players have twice been named to the D3football.com “National Team of the Week” this season.
“We have a coaching staff that obviously puts us in great spots to make plays. We’re so coached up we almost know what to expect,” says Wiley of the success the defensive ends have had this autumn.
OUT OF NECESSITY, with all the wide-open offenses Cortland faces in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, the Red Dragons turned their four-man defensive line into a trio this season.
“We ran a little bit of it last year for a couple of games so we could match up better,” noted Wyler. “We started out with it in the spring, did it in spring ball and thought it would work, so we stuck with it.”
Before last Saturday’s uncharacteristic performance in a wild 56-42 win at Brockport, only one other opponent has scored more than 20 points against this Cortland defense where active inside linebackers Cody Allen and Will Schroeder have emerged as the team’s leading tacklers. So the three-man line had worked well.
“It has given us the opportunity to blitz more, bring four-man pressure with a three-man front with zone blitzes, so it’s been a good transition,” said Wiley.
“They make the whole system tick,” said Coach Rebrovich, a former Red Dragon defensive lineman. “They understand what we’re doing. They’re smart kids. They understand not only technique, but the scheme completely.”
Talent helps, too.
“They are two of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” adds Rebrovich. “I’ve been fortunate here in my career to have great D-linemen, and these two kids, they’re definitely among 1-or-2 of the best kids I’ve ever coached. They’re relentless, they want to get after it, they want to make every single play, and that’s the key.”
Wiley and Wyler will certainly earn a lot of Ithaca’s attention.
“They’ve got a great defensive line,” said IC senior quarterback Brian Grastorf, who has thrown for 2,200 yards through nine contests. “They have a great overall defense, but I think their defensive line is really strong. We will just have to stick to our assignments on offense and get our protections down and just be ready for whatever they throw at us.”
Senior Lou Crispo started the season as the nose guard as part of that deffensive front before suffering a season-ending injury. Alex Greenberg — Coach Rebovich calls the 5-foot-10, 235-pound junior “my little pit bull” — has played well in Crispo’s place.
Crispo will be able to come back last year as a medical red-shirt, Wyler also in the process of getting an extra-year of eligibility awarded. and should know his fate by the end of the year.
THIS IS THE final Cortaca Jug game for Wiley, who has enjoyed moving from tackle to defensive end during his productive career in Cortland.
“I like the outside because you get a little more freedom. You’re not always getting double-teamed or getting that contact all the time,” says Wiley. “It turns out I’ve been a little more of a play-maker on the outside and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do that. I think I like the outside a little bit more, but wherever I am on a football field I’m having a good time.”
That zest for the game is part of what makes these two Red Dragons go.
“First of all they’re tough,” said Coach MacNeill. “They’re well coached. They’re coach-able, which is a theme for a lot of our guys. But the one thing they have is they both can run. They’re both athletic.
“Those are the factors that get people to the highest level,” he added, feeling both players could merit All-America consideration. “Neither one of them will have any regrets of leaving anything on the field, that’s for sure.”
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