FAIRFIELD, CT (August 16, 2013) - As we close in on just two weeks before kick-off at Marist, this week's final installment of Pioneer Preseason Pass focuses back on the defense. Friday's edition takes a look at the Pioneer corners and safeties as we chat with SHU alum and assistant coach Brian Butterworth '05 and junior safety Gordon Hill (Sicklerville, NJ).
Part IV - Defensive Backs
The Pioneers posted the top pass defense in the Northeast Conference in 2012 and will have their entire starting secondary back again this season. SHU ranked ninth in the nation allowing just 163.1 yards through the air per game and shared the NEC lead in interceptions, picking off 13 passes last fall, eight by Pioneer defensive backs. Defensive coordinator Dave Wissman will have a deep and talented group to rely on as he dials up his defensive schemes in 2013.
A pair of juniors in Gordon Hill (Sicklerville, NJ) and Dennis Regan(Philadelphia, PA) will help quarterback the defense from their safety positions. Hill has been one of the Pioneers' top-tacklers since putting on a Pioneer uniform as a freshman. He posted 68 total tackles in each of his first two seasons for the Pioneers. Hill made 38 solo stops last season from his strong safety spot, including 3.5 for a loss. He added a pick and 10 pass break-ups last fall while forcing a pair of fumbles. Regan notched 50 stops last season and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. The duo returns as two of the top-four tacklers back this fall.
Senior captain Alex Aitkens (Wood Ridge, NJ) adds depth at safety and brings a wealth of game experience to the mix. Aitkens saw action in nine games last fall and had 12 stops and a pick.
At cornerback, juniors Preston Sanford (Birmingham, AL) and Stephan Thomas (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) return as starters with senior J.D. Roussel (Pawtucket, RI) and classmate Kyle Church (San Francisco, CA) rounding out a deep group.
Thomas had 44 tackles a year ago and picked off a pass along with a forced fumble and six pass break-ups. Sanford had 36 stops and a forced fumble as well as three pass break-ups in 2012. Roussel came up with a pair of picks last fall and broke up six passes as well. Roussel turned both his interceptions into pick-sixes, returning one 34-yards for a score against Central Connecticut and another 14-yards for six against Robert Morris.
We will be back on Monday with part five of our series as we meet each of this season's captains. On Tuesday we will feature the quarterbacks, Wednesday we will meet the defensive line, Thursday it's the wide receivers and tight ends and we wrap it up a week from today with special teams.