Every day at 4 p.m this summer, Matt Ioannidis can be found at the Edberg-Olson Football Complex.
There, the senior defensive lineman is joined by his fellow position players as they go over film in preparation for the upcoming season.
With no coaches around, Ioannidis, who is known as “the professor” by his teammates, has taken over the teaching responsibilities.
“Matt is very smart,” sophomore defensive lineman Jacob Martin said. “He knows what he is talking about. He is always thinking and he has an explanation for everything…he is just a very intelligent guy. He knows a lot about football.”
Ioannidis anchors a defensive line that returns six players who appeared in all 12 games last season: redshirt-junior Praise Martin-Oguike, junior Sharif Finch, redshirt-senior Hershey Walton, junior Averee Robinson, Martin and Ioannidis.
The group also returns redshirt-junior Avery Ellis, redshirt-senior Brandon Chudnoff and redshirt-junior Haason Reddick, who appeared in 11, 10 and 10 games, respectively.
“It’s looking to be a real good defense,” Martin said. “A lot of returning starters. The returning guys are real good guys. Very smart football players who are always in the film room preparing themselves for games.”
The defensive line combined for 20.5 sack last season, including a team-high 7.5 sacks from Martin-Oguike — seven of which came over the final nine games.
The Owls ranked 54th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 2.25 sacks per game last season, but the defensive line has its eyes set on a bigger total in 2015.
“This year, we put a huge focus on getting to the quarterback,” Martin said. “It was a focus last year and we saw an improvement in sacks. This year our goal is 40 sacks.”
The position also adds redshirt-senior Nate D. Smith , who transitioned to the defensive line this spring after playing linebacker last season. Smith ranked second on team in total tackles last season with 71 and totaled five tackles for loss.
“Our defensive line is so raw,” redshirt-junior linebacker Avery Williams said. “When you see these boys play, they are eye-opening, especially with the addition of Nate. They are the wild boys … they are vicious.”
Other returnees are redshirt-sophomore Jullian Taylor, who appeared in three games last season, and redshirt-freshmen Michael Dogbe, who appeared in four games last season, and Freddie Booth-Lloyd
“I am really excited to see Freddie Booth-Lloyd play this year,” Martin said. “He was redshirted last year but he is a very exciting player to watch. He is a very big guy.”
Dogbe, who totaled 30 sacks in high school, including 22 his senior year to go along with 18 tackles for loss, said he can help the defense reach its goal of 40 sacks this season.
“I know Coach Rhule’s big on getting to the quarterback,” Dogbe said. “That’s one of the things he wanted to fix. That’s one of the reasons they recruited me. So, if I can help the team by getting to the quarterback I’ll be doing my job.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise