The anonymity Ryan Delaire once enjoyed may soon be over.
That's what happens when you rank second in the Football Championship Subdivision in sacks, with 6 1/2. That's what happens when you get three sacks in a single quarter. And that's what happens when you cause a fumble a teammate then returns 43 yards for a touchdown in the final qaurter of a come-from-behind victory.
So Delaire, a junior defensive end, can expect a lot of attention going forward, especially from No. 19 New Hampshire (1-2 overall, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association), which will visit the No. 3 Tigers (5-0, 1-0) on Saturday at noon at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"I'm not sure what they're going to do, but I know that us as a team, they're going to have to watch out for everybody," Delaire said. "It's not only just me, but the other D-end, the tackle inside, the nose guard. So they won't know what's coming at them."
Andy Gresh, a college football analyst for Comcast SportsNet New England, said he fully expects Wildcats coach Sean McDonnell to prepare his players for Delaire.
"The thing that gets me in just watching a little bit of tape on him is that he's got a burst," said Gresh, who will also call Saturday's game. "He seems to get into his first move pretty well, but redirects to be able to get to the quarterback. I think with pass rushers, not only is their ability to get off the ball [important], but it's also their ability to go to something secondary if they get stoned, whether it's a secondary move or their ability to go outside-inside or their ability to change direction. I think his change of direction is pretty decent. I'm curious to see him for a full game, especially against a New Hampshire team that has [senior offensive tackle] Seamus O'Neill. He's been around the league for a long time. It should be an interesting matchup."
The 6-foot-4, 244-pound Delaire was a wide receiver and defensive end at Windsor High School in Windsor, Conn., but he gave up aspirations of playing offense in college as he came to enjoy disrupting passes more than catching them.
Delaire began his collegiate career at Massachusetts. In 2012, his sophomore year, he had 19 tackles, five for losses, and and 2 1/2 sacks.
But Minutemen coaches criticized Delaire for not being an every-down defensive end, especially against the run. Delaire said there weren't many opportunities to prove himself to the coaches.
"There was a lot of depth," Delaire said. "So I wasn't able to get on the field as much."
Seeking more playing time, Delaire elected to transfer, and he narrowed his choices to Towson and Stony Brook. Delaire said the Tigers' back-to-back CAA titles put them at the top of his list.
"I probably have two people I knew out here" before transferring, he said with a smile. "I chose Towson mainly because I felt very comfortable with coach [Rob] Ambrose. I noticed that the school had won the championship twice in the conference, and that persuaded me to come here. Also, the major that they have, health care management, is what I wanted to go into."
Delaire dived into the Tigers' defensive playbook in the offseason and was a constant source of questions for senior defensive tackle Arnold Farmer (Poly), who hosted Delaire on his campus visit. Farmer said it didn't take Delaire long to grasp his coaches' expectations.
"He soaked it up like a sponge," Farmer said. "He's a great player and a great fit on this team."
Towson has benefited greatly from Delaire's decision. Not only does he lead the team in sacks, he also leads in tackles for losses (8 1/2) and ranks fifth in tackles (17). In last Saturday's comeback victory over Stony Brook, he finished with three sacks, all in the fourth quarter. The last forced a fumble, and sophomore cornerback Donnell Lewis' ensuing touchdown return clinched a 35-21 win.
"We believed he was going to be a pretty good football player," Ambrose said of Delaire. "The great thing about Ryan's presence here, especially in the spring, was that he's been a good pass rusher, and he's made our offensive tackles — who are good tackles — better in-house. He's made us better football players. We knew that he could rush the passer, and I think he's shown that is a consistent quality of his. He'd be the first one to tell you that he needs to improve to complete his game entirely in the run game. But as of right now, he is truly a threat rushing the passer."
Delaire is quick to share his success with Farmer (15 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks), sophomore defensive tackle Jon Desir (15 tackles, 1/2 sack) and junior defensive end Drew Cheripko (13 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks). Farmer said the defensive front's collective play helps each individual member.
"We're a very unselfish defense, and if you do your job, the play will come to you," Farmer said. "Ryan's been getting a lot of plays coming to him, and he's been finishing them, and that's his job."
Delaire's job figures to get more difficult as opponents likely shade their pass-protection schemes to his side. Delaire could face a double-team from an offensive tackle and a tight end or even see that pair backed up by a running back.
Delaire acknowledged that how he handles the newfound attention could be a telling sign of his development.
"I'm going to get frustrated, but I'm going to keep working," he said. "I know the whole D-line is going to work, and if I don't get it, somebody else is going to get it. Everyone's going to get something."
New Hampshire (1-2, 0-0) at Towson (5-0, 1-0)
When: Saturday, noon
Site: Johnny Unitas Stadium
Series: New Hampshire leads, 7-2
What's at stake: There is a five-way tie atop the Colonial Athletic Association, but no team is hotter than Towson, which is riding a nine-game winning streak dating back to Oct. 27 last year. The Tigers, who sit at No. 3 in The Sports Network's Football Championship Subdivision poll, secured a come-from-behind 35-21 victory over Stony Brook a week ago, outscoring the Seawolves 25-0 in the second half. Towson, which had played four of its first five contests games on the road, returns to Johnny Unitas Stadium where the team is 5-1 the past two seasons. The Tigers dropped the first five meetings with New Hampshire, scoring just 114 points, but they have scored a combined 120 points in the past two meetings — both of which were Towson wins. The Wildcats have sandwiched a 30-point rout of Colgate with a three-point loss to Central Michigan and a seven-point loss to then-No. 21 Lehigh. New Hampshire is seeking its first victory on the road since Oct. 27 last year.
Key matchup: The Wildcats boast the top rushing attack in the conference, averaging 238.3 yards per game on the ground. Junior running back Nico Steriti leads the way with 42 carries for 260 yards and three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Andy Vailas has chipped in 112 yards and one score on 37 rushing attempts. But Towson has limited opponents to just 70.8 rushing yards per game and has allowed just two running touchdowns. Senior outside linebacker Telvion Clark leads the defense with 44 tackles.
Player to watch: Junior running back Terrance West has especially terrorized New Hampshire. Over the past two meetings, West has gained 497 yards and has six touchdowns on 42 carries. The Baltimore native and Northwestern graduate leads the CAA in rushing (129.6 yards per game) and scoring (14.4 points per game) and will tangle with a Wildcats defense that is yielding 147.3 rushing yards per game.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun