That's right, our third and concluding DL profile will feature defensive end Mitch Unrein. And in the spirit of our affinity with the external, let us begin by saying that at 257 pounds, Unrein is the lightest of this year’s front three. At 6-foot-4, however, he’ll still have the size to knock people around and the speed to penetrate opposing teams’ backfields.
Last year, Unrein played in all but one contest and, like his teammate and fellow mammoth nose guard Fred Givens, he started the 11th game of the season against BYU. In 11 appearances, he posted 12 total tackles and one tackle for a loss. And, as was the case with this year’s other two starters on the defensive line, Unrein was a mere redshirt freshman on a squad full of far more seasoned competitors in 2006.
Yesterday we recapped--in gawking adulation, we might add--the impressive high school numbers of defensive lineman John Fletcher, who put up 150 tackles his senior season. If such mind-boggling statistics didn’t impress you as much as it did us, maybe a look at Unrein’s prep accomplishments will have you singing a different tune.
In 2004, Unrein put up 125 tackles as a senior. But here’s the catch: he did it in just six and a half games because he was injured the rest of the season. Yep...that’s over 19 tackles a game.
He was also an accomplished wrestler, winning a state title his senior year at 215 pounds.
Still, none of that was enough to garner Unrein the kind of recruiting attention he would have liked, and he was forced to walk on to the Cowboys’ squad in 2005 as a freshman. Now, just two years later, Head Coach Joe Glenn and the rest of the staff are all smiles about the sophomore’s potential, especially considering his dominating performance in this year’s spring game, where Foxsports.com writer Pete Fiutak says Unrein was the “star of spring ball,” showing “pass rushing speed, quickness to the ball against the run, and an aggressiveness that the line lost.”
“It wouldn't be a shock if he turned into one of the team's top tacklers,” Fiutak added.
Coach Glenn was dishing out similar compliments when he talked to CSTV earlier this summer.
“Unrein had as good a spring as any player on the team,” Glenn said.
More to the point, after hours of tireless research on this story, we here at CowboyBlitz are going to put our highly esteemed reputation on the line by saying that Unrein will be one of the team’s biggest surprises in 2007. And know as readers that we do so completely prepared to stand by that prediction right up through at least the first quarter of the Pokes’ season opener September 1.
(As a side note, it may also be of interest to know that we make our way out onto such a precarious journalistic limb not out of a bona fide understanding of the game of football--although we have no doubt put that kind of knowledge on display numerous times on this site--but more out of a sheer animal-like thrill for all things dangerous. That‘s just the kind of thrill-seeking adventurers we are. Why fight it?)
Nevertheless, Unrein’s first few games of the season will surely say far more than any amount of incessant babbling we might publish on this site. We won’t know for sure how much of his potential for greatness will be realized until we see him on the field, but we do know that he has great speed, is extremely aggressive and has a tremendous nose for the football. Don’t be shocked to see Unrein show shades of his phenomenal high school brilliance and surprise everyone. Everyone but us, that is.
Unrein’s 2007 keys to Success:
1. Deal with the pressure. Unrein was a team captain in high school and that kind of leadership experience is a must if the front three expect to win the crucial battle in the trenches. Having played so few minutes last season, it will be a huge transition for all three starters to step up to their new responsibilities on the defensive line in ‘07.
2. Stay healthy. This actually goes for all three d-line starters as well, who have each flirted with injuries in the past. Unrein proved in high school he can be injury-prone, which may be the reason teams were slow to offer the athletic big man a scholarship. UW doesn’t have enough experienced replacements on the line to withstand losing any of its starters this season.
Unrein’s ‘06 stats:
5 solo tackles, 7 assists, 12 total, 1 tackle for a loss