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Pair of freshmen inside linebackers powered defense for Towson football

With a 3-3 overall record and a 1-3 1-2 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association, Towson is still playing for the present, which could include a berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

But the Tigers got a glimpse of their future in freshmen Chris Tedder and Diondre Wallace.

In their first career starts at inside linebacker in Saturday's 21-14 win at Stony Brook, Tedder led the defense in tackles with nine. Wallace, an Arundel graduate, finished second with eight tackles and one sack.

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Tedder and Wallace make up part of a linebacking corps that has been forced to play this fall without redshirt sophomore James Simms, a Laurel resident and Reservoir graduate who led the team last season in tackles (99) but has sidelined by arthroscopic knee surgery, and redshirt junior Bryton Barr, who is out for the third straight year due to injury.

"I always have the comment about the future being bright, but boy, at the inside backer position and having guys banged up – Bryton gets banged up, James gets banged up – and everybody wants to jump off the boat except our guys, and now you look at these two young guys that are getting better at every single rep every week, they treat practice really professionally," coach Rob Ambrose said Monday. "They know that they don't know, and they're really, really hungry, and they're physical kids. I feel really good about where we're going to be especially at the inside backer position for years to come."

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Tedder and Wallace started at the expense of juniors Eric Handy and Malik Jackson, both of whom had started at inside linebacker in the first five games. Handy, a Wilde Lake graduate who is part of a team leadership group called the Kings, leads Towson in tackles with 39, while Jackson, a Franklin graduate, ranks second with 37.

But Ambrose said the coaching staff elected to shake up the defensive depth chart after a 51-30 loss to No. 5 James Madison on Oct. 10.

"After the JMU game, we were rather displeased with some things on defense, and we decided to go back to the days of the depth chart being fluid," he said. "If you want to play you're going to earn it. And they weren't the only ones. By last Tuesday, there were at least four starters that were not starters to the depth chart when we started the week.

"Some guys responded well, and some guys didn't. Very pleased with how Eric handled himself. As one of the Kings, he ended up making some really big plays for us and did a great job in leading and helping those young guys."

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