Sawyer making D stand up at Liberty Shot in the arm: The senior transfer has bolstered the Lions' defense from the inside linebacker position.

November 03, 1995|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Jim Sawyer talks like he's been around the game of football all of his life.

More importantly for the Liberty defense, he plays that way, too.

The senior inside linebacker didn't put on shoulder pads until he was a freshman at Mount Hebron High School. He transferred to Liberty this year and has been in the middle of everything for a defense that has helped the No. 11 Lions (7-1) to new heights.

Going into tonight's Central Maryland Conference clash against

first-place Thomas Johnson, Sawyer leads the county in tackles with 89 and also has five sacks.

"I played a lot in the back yard when I was younger and knew I wanted to play football," Sawyer said. "When I was a freshman, my coach at Mount Hebron said, 'You're going to be a linebacker.' "

And a linebacker was born.

"Usually the inside linebacker is the type of kid who's played four or five years of rec ball before coming to high school, but this is only Jimmy's third full year," said Liberty coach Ken Johnson. "He's provided really good defensive leadership and not only verbally, but also playing big. He's been a big shot in the arm for our defense."

Sawyer savors his role, one he learned from studying films and watching his favorite NFL linebacker, San Diego's Junior Seau.

"Basically, the inside linebacker is usually in charge of the defense, getting the plays called in and just having a good handle on things," he said. "I like to take control."

He couldn't have come at a better time, providing the perfect complement to inside linebacker Scott Taylor.

The Lions had no problem scoring last season, but the defense couldn't stop opponents. A 52-46 loss to Frederick was an example of how things went as the Lions finished 4-6. That's not happening this season.

"The hard thing about playing defense is you have to be able to react. The offense does something and the defense has to react to it," Johnson said. "First, you have to have the physical tools -- strength and quickness -- to make the play, and second, you have to understand what you're seeing and make that reaction. Jimmy's able to do that, he's our closer on defense."

Sawyer's secret is to keep things simple.

"The biggest thing is you have to follow the guards. They'll take you right to the ball," he said. "You also have to have a nose for the ball."

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