Aug. 22, 2011
The Hoyas secondary proved to be one of the team's strongest units during a 2010 season that took many by surprise. Though for those around the Georgetown University football program, what the Hoyas secondary accomplished was a natural progression for a unit that has grown up together on the Hilltop.
"We've bonded here for four years and we've come to know each other," senior safety David Quintero said. "Sometimes I don't even need to make a call to Jayah (Kaisamba), sometimes we just need to make eye contact and we know what we're doing on defense."
Heimuli echoed the sentiments.
"We've been around each other for a while," senior captain Wayne Heimuli said. "We've known each other, we've grown up here at Georgetown and we've been in dorms together. On the field we don't even have to look at each other, we know what checks are coming out and it makes the game a lot easier for us."
Heimuli and David Quintero and senior cornerback Jayah Kaisamba make up three-quarters of the team's starting unit and have each garnered major playing time since their freshman season in 2008. Last season, Jeremy Moore, now a junior, stepped in to the other cornerback position, opposite Kaisamba, to complete the starting unit that finished the season ranked No. 21 in the nation in pass efficiency defense and first in the Patriot League.
"Coming in as freshman, we were really wide-eyed and didn't know what to expect and we were all thrown in at different times," Kaisamba said. "But being able to grow through the years, we have all matured physically and mentally."
The trial by fire approach taken with the current seniors has helped the group grow as leaders, through the tough times building to the promise of the group for the 2011 season.
"It's a solid group that has played together for a long time and have been through a lot," Defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Rob Sgarlata said. "Now they're all finally upperclassmen and bring a lot of maturity and leadership to the defense with Quintero, Heimuli, Kaisamba and Tim Bayer. They're all familiar with our system and they have seen how our defense has evolved and are starting to get the ins and outs and the nuances of what we want them to understand."
The Hoyas will once again be strong at cornerback. Kaisamba earned Patriot League and ECAC first team honors, while Moore earned Patriot League second team honors, as the cornerback tandem finished first and second in the Patriot League. Kaisamba's five interceptions was second in the league and both corners have earned preseason All Patriot League recognition.
"Jayah is an incredibly strong kid, very technically sound, studies the game and is really working on his deficiencies," Sgarlata said. "He's definitely a student of the game and takes a business-like approach to the mental aspects of the game."
Moore led the Patriot League with 11 pass break ups and showed the ability to get in the backfield with 10 tackles for loss in 2010, his first season as a starter.
"J-Mo is very talented," Sgarlata said. "He does some things where you're like, no,
no, great play! I think he's getting more mature, his talent and athletic ability is through the roof and he's gaining confidence, which is of the utmost important when you're playing corner"
The difference for Georgetown in 2011 will be the depth they have behind Kaisamba and Moore with senior Tim Bayer, who has seen a great deal of playing time on defense and special teams during his career and sophomore Stephen Atwater, who is coming into his own after earning playing time as a freshman.
"Timmy Bayer and Stephen Atwater at cornerback are pushing (Jayah and Jeremy) even though they're preseason All Patriot League and that makes camp more fun as a coach," Sgarlata said. "I think individually they are all talented, but they've also taken that talent and worked with it. Any time you have good corners, it allows you to do other things when you don't have to worry about the edges. They are working hard, the preseason recognition is nice, but it doesn't mean much to us as wins and losses."
As strong as the Hoyas cornerbacks promise to be, the core of safeties may be the deepest unit on the team. Heimuli has been a leader and difference-maker when on the field during his career at Georgetown, earning him the prestigious Joe Eacobacci No. 35 Memorial jersey.
"Wayne is the toughest kid I've coached in 15 years," Sgarlata said. "He's been through a broken wrist, a shoulder injury and a severe knee injury and he's come back in record time from each of them. He's one of those guys that does not just know what he's doing, but he knows what everyone else is supposed to do. He's a true leader, he's really selfless, he's got the No. 35 jersey and a captain, but you'll never see him point to himself, which is really good for the young guys to see."
The cerebral Quintero has been a staple of the Hoyas defensive backfield practically since his arrival on campus. Quintero, a noted hardworker, has grown into the quarterback on defense, putting his teammates in a position to make plays.
"I'm not the fastest guy or the strongest guy out here," notes Quintero. "So I have to rely on knowing what I'm doing."
"DQ has played a lot of snaps for us," Sgarlata commented. "He's the quarterback of our defense. He knows all the checks and can get everyone lined up. He understands all of what we're trying to do and all the adjustments which is critical. He did a great job during the offseason, even though he had an intership with Google, he came back stronger from when he left in the spring."
Behind Heimuli and Quintero, the Hoyas have two talented sophomores in Malcolm Caldwell Meeks, who was voted the defenses most improved player during spring practice and Dustin Wharton who spent his summer break teen powerlifting records on the bench press.
"Malcolm is a very athletic kid," Sgarlata said. "When we go to our nickel package he'll play there He's just learning, he was a running back in high school and only played a little bit of defense."
"Dustin is not just a weight room kid," Sgarlata said. "He is a physically gifted kid and the thing with him, similar to Wayne, they are both very good tacklers. It's hard to tackle people in the open field and he's a very good tackler and an extremely strong kid."
Beyond players like Bayer, Atwater, Caldwell-Meeks and Wharton the Hoyas have plenty more depth in the defensive backfield with Will Carroll, Mike Cimilluca, Michael Layne and Alex Isenberg along with a strong group of freshman arriving on the Hilltop.
The amount of talented depth the Hoyas have in the secondary has pushed the returning players, but it has also taken some pressure off of the group.
"Depth is a really big thing for us now," Heimuli said. "If any one of us gets banged up, the coaches can throw another guy in who's just as good or better. Having that depth, having that security, knowing that you don't have to worry about sitting a guy at practice, it helps us out a lot. In games, if we get tired, coach can actually pull us out for a play and not have to worry about allowing a big play."
Despite the positive outlook for the group and the preseason accolades for Kaisamba and Moore everyone is quick to point out that they have not yet won anything, and that the numbers they put up last season are just that; last season's numbers.
With the experience returning to the unit and the competition from the underclassmen, pushing the incumbent starters, the Hoyas secondary finds itself in a good situation going forward.
"I think it says something about the program when we're not starting freshman," Sgarlata said. "We're starting juniors and seniors and guys that have come up through special teams. I think we're closing the gap with the rest of the league and I think anytime you can foster competition it raises the bar."