Football Preview: Linebackers
HANOVER, Ind. – As we near the end of our season preview series for the Hanover football team, we look at our final defensive group today in the linebackers.
In the weeks leading up to the season opener against Centre (Ky.), we will take an in-depth look at each position group, mainly focusing on the key returners. Check out the previous position releases below.
Hanover is coming off a 4-6 season in 2016, including a 4-4 mark in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play, its first conference winning percentage of .500 or better since 2013. The Panthers were recently picked by the conference coaches to finish fifth in the HCAC this season after tying for fourth in 2016.
Looking to lead the linebacking core this year will be junior Zach Donan (New Albany, Ind.). Donan is the leading returner for the Panther linebackers in tackles, posting 24 in 2016. The incoming junior also logged one of HC’s three interceptions last year, while adding a pair of tackles for loss as well.
“Zach switched to the linebacker position from the quarterback early least season,” said Hanover defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Aarik Gault. “We expect him to take huge strides on the field and be the vocal leader of our defense this fall.”
Sophomores Carson Plessinger (Alexandria, Ky.) and Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.) also return in 2017, as they both look to earn spots in the starting lineup. The two each played in eight games during their freshmen campaigns, combing for 19 stops.
“Dakota was a key reserve player for us last year and got a lot of valuable playing time, while Carson also made the switch from quarterback to linebacker a year ago. Both players have had a great offseason and will fight for a starting spot.”
Despite having a bevy of younger players at the linebacker position, Gault is confident they can make the transition to taking on more of a role on the defense this season, “We are a very young group, but most of our returners played a key role on special teams and have some game experience.”
Gault also believes the incoming players will have the opportunity to compete for a spot on game day right away, “We were fortunate to be able to bring in a great group of really athletic freshmen that have the chance to contribute for us this year. Their development will be key to our success as defensive unit this fall.”
Hanover will host Centre for Football Alumni and Community Day during the season opener, Sept. 2. The Panthers and Colonels are scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
Contact: Tyler Jester