MARQUETTE - For four years, Sault Ste. Marie native Zach Anderson anchored the Northern Michigan University football team's defensive line.
But with Anderson now playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, the Wildcats are turning to another Upper Peninsula native in junior Jordan Adediran.
"He's a guy that's done it and been there," NMU head coach Chris Ostrowsky said. "He brings a certain amount of experience there.
Northern Michigan University freshman defensive lineman DeMarco Willingham runs through preseason drills inside the Superior Dome on Saturday, Aug. 17. (Journal file photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"He's a phenomenal student, a local kid, a hard worker. Really, he is just a kid who over and over again does the right things. We're excited for Jordan."
Adediran finished second among defensive linemen in tackles a year ago, making 49 with 1.5 tackles for a loss. He also had an interception that was returned 26 yards against Wisconsin-La Crosse.
But the former All-U.P. Modeltowner is the only returning starter back in 2013 on the variable-front defensive line. Anderson has turned pro after making 71 tackles and 10 for negative yardage. James Brito-White also graduated after making 46 tackles a year ago.
Sophomore Matt Smith is the next-most experienced Wildcat after appearing in six games last year as a freshman, making 34 tackles with an interception against Wayne State.
Aaron Krenes out of Westwood also saw time last year for NMU, making one tackle for a loss in his lone Saturday of action against Grand Valley State.
"Matt Smith, a downstate kid, brings some experience for us this year," Ostrowsky said. "He played some meaningful minutes for us last year. He'll do a good job for us."
Of the seven freshmen defensive linemen on the roster, four are redshirt freshmen and out of that group, defensive line coach and run defense coordinator Joe Coniglio highlighted the 6-foot-3, 231-pound Williams out of downstate Lake City.
It was the same player Ostrowsky pointed to on the line prior to the preseason, saying Williams will be a unique talent in the GLIAC.
"Adam Williams has a ton, a ton of potential," Coniglio said. "He is just really scratching the surface of who he can become as a player."
Coniglio highlighted two true freshmen - Cornell Gilmore of Miami, Fla., and JaMarco Willingham of Livonia - as potential difference makers on the defensive line.
Northern did bring in some experience, however, to counter its youth, including senior transfer Rodney LaMar out of Florida Atlantic.
Northern also moved junior Trever Kruzel from running back to defensive lineman.
Coniglio said Kruzel's transition has been so smooth, he could start Sept. 14 against Findlay at the Superior Dome.
"(The transition) has been extremely seamless," Coniglio said. "It's been a really great transition for him. He plays with an incredible motor. He is relentless."
Coniglio said Northern will continue with its variable fronts in 2013, switching from a 4-3 (four down linemen and three linebackers) to 3-4, depending on what the defense presents.
Whether its run or pass defense, the defensive line coach said his group will make the opposition block all game long.
"We're going to do a lot of multiple things," Coniglio said. "We're going to make offenses prepare for everything. We're going to kind of have a front for what we feel an offense may struggle with."