Lance Carey

Saint Francis senior Lance Carey talks about his career, switching from defensive end to defensive tackle.

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Local colleges

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis’ Lance Carey fights through a block during Saturday’s game against Saint Ambrose.

Stuck in the middle suits Cougars’ Carey

– Not much on the stat sheet for Saint Francis defensive tackle Lance Carey from Saturday’s bitter 15-14 loss to Saint Ambrose: three tackles and a half sack.

That’s OK for Carey. This is life in the trenches, where individual glory gets lost in the crowd. It’s where push comes to shove, and shove back; where the strong survive, or get run over.

Even though he is a senior who spent his first year out of Leo as a redshirt, Carey has bounced from defensive tackle to defensive end during a career that is in its fifth season. One year, he’s out on the edge at defensive end, the position where sacks are collected and stacked like cordwood; another year, he mysteriously becomes lost in the middle despite his 6-feet-4, 270-pound size, plugging holes and literally putting grunt in grunt work.

He has made his last position switch, however. This time the move to the inside is final.

“I asked to be back at tackle because I prefer that position,” Carey said. “I enjoyed it my redshirt freshman year. I battled it for a while, but once I was switched there, I enjoyed it.”

With every change of position came a fluctuation in weight with Carey. Whenever he was sent to play defensive end, his weight went down. Now that he’s back in the middle, butting heads against offensive centers and guards, he’s back up in the 270 range.

It’s the 6-4 height that makes him effective inside.

“He’s tall. He’s long,” defensive line coach Eric Wagoner said. “He makes it hard for other teams to throw. He takes away throwing lanes by himself by just getting his hands up. And he’s extremely athletic for being inside. If we get him in situations where he’s one-on-one with the guard, we feel like we’ve got a real good advantage. But he’s strong enough – he’s around 275 pounds – that he can take on two guys.”

Carey was closer to weighing 240 pounds when he first stepped on the Saint Francis campus.

Because he had the height to add additional weight, the Cougars moved him into the middle of the defensive line. But he was also quick enough to become a force on the outside.

When Saint Francis switched to a three-man front, he was sent back outside. But the defensive scheme has gone back to a four-man front, which has caused Carey to return to his favorite spot at tackle.

“At the end, you attack,” Carey said. “You also have outside contain, but you also get upfield; you’re getting to the quarterback; you’re making plays, watching the dive. At tackle, you’re taking on more of a double-team. It’s more of a war between you and the linemen. You don’t necessarily have to make the plays to do a good job; you just have to keep them off the linebacker and let the linebackers get to their spots and fill holes.

“I have to remind myself that it isn’t as glorious of a position. It’s the things that go unnoticed that make the difference.”

Note: Senior linebacker Brody Kalbaugh suffered a broken leg late in Saturday’s loss and will be out indefinitely. Kalbaugh leads the team in tackles.