Defense Gels behind Junior Captain

JoLonn Dunbar

BC's junior defensive captain, linebacker JoLonn Dunbar, will be sporting a new hairdo when the Eagles open their season against Central Michigan, a hairdo that may inspire the headline: Mohawks vs. Chippewas.

When the Eagles' defense marches onto the field turf in Mount Pleasant on Thursday, you might not recognize them. Some of the names will be familiar – like returning starters Brian Toal and Jamie Silva – and you won't be able to miss the highly anticipated human blockade in the middle of the line – B.J. Raji and Ron Brace. But something will be there that wasn't before. A new swagger. Not the seasoned-veteran swagger of last year's defense. It'll be a "you-ain't-seen-nothing-yet" kind of swagger. A blonde-Mohawk-wearing, smash-you-in-the-mouth kind of swagger.

You think I'm kidding, don't you. The new hairstyle (a shaved head except for a triangular, bleached-blonde Mohawk, ala Chad Johnson) has already been adopted by newly selected team captain and starting middle linebacker Jolonn Dunbar. It started with fullback Survival Ross, who convinced Dunbar, Tyronne Pruitt, and Raji to do the same. But it's Dunbar who wears it with the most conviction. He takes pride in the new ‘do the same way he takes pride in his defense. He knows they're ready to give on-lookers something they've never seen before. When asked to name a player who he thinks will be a surprise this year, Dunbar had a handful of answers on the tip of his tongue.

"Tyronne Pruitt," he said. "He's going to be a great player."

Yeah, but that doesn't surprise us too much. Pruitt's been there before. How about another?

"Austin Giles," Dunbar quickly retorted. "He's caught on so quickly and has been playing really well in camp. He's taking his learning curve and doing great."

Is that it?

"I love Marcellus Bowman," Dunbar said, regarding the redshirt-freshman safety that could very well be starting on Thursday. "He's got a real physical presence to him. He played great in the scrimmages."

Dunbar spoke with such sincerity, like he knows something we don't. Like his newcomer teammates are his children and he wants to show everyone his wallet-size pictures. Despite all the new faces this year on defense (six starters from last year are gone), Dunbar and his troops have gelled well and are ready for battle.

Central Michigan will be the first test - the Mohawks against the Chippewas (with all respect for our Native-American brethren). It's a game that everyone is expecting BC to take, but it's also a potential doozie. Two years ago the Eagles opened up the season on the road, on a Thursday night, against another MAC opponent, Ball State. The Eagles barely flew away with a 19-11 win, but it sure was a wake-up call.

"Yeah, that didn't go too well," Dunbar said, recalling his first career game after a redshirt season in 2003. "It definitely got our attention. The MAC [teams] demand attention because they have guys that can beat you. Some guys were overlooking that [Ball State] game and were looking toward the next game. [The Central Michigan] game means a lot to their program. I think it's their first ever night game. They'll probably come out and hit us in the mouth a couple of times."

Maybe for a squad that has been there before (like the last time the two teams played, which resulted in a 43-0 stomping by BC), it would be hard to focus on a game that is seen as just an appetizer for the Clemson game. But this will also be a first for a lot of guys on the Eagles' defense. For some, a first start or first-time exposure on national television. For Dunbar, it will be his first opportunity to show off his defense's new swagger. And his new haircut. He won't be overlooking this one.

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