SU Football Notebook: Grady wreaking havoc in opposing backfields for Hornets

Shenandoah University junior Chris Grady pursues Bridgewater quarterback Brendon Maturey during a game last weekend in Winchester. Grady, a 2013 Skyline High School graduate, leads the ODAC in sacks this season. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah University

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University head football coach Scott Yoder and defensive coordinator Brock McCullough each said in the preseason that they expected junior Chris Grady to make an impact along the Hornets’ defensive front this season after being hampered by an injury for most of 2016. Opposing offenses certainly have felt Grady’s presence this fall.

Through six games this season, Grady leads the Old Dominion Athletic Conference with 5.5 sacks, is second on the team in tackles for loss (seven), has forced a fumble and snagged an interception.

“The season this year for me honestly, it’s been a good ride. I’m playing like how I feel like I can,” Grady, a 2013 Skyline High School graduate, said Wednesday.

“I feel like it’s a real honor to be leading the ODAC right now but I’m just happy to be doing what I can for this team. It’s a good situation.”

Grady, who suffered a broken hand last preseason, is listed on the depth chart as an outside linebacker but plays primarily like a standup defensive end. He said he’s only dropped back into pass coverage a “handful” of times this season, adding that he’s most comfortable when he’s putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Grady has at least one sack in five of the Hornets’ six games this season. In the only game during which he didn’t record a sack – in Week 5 against Randolph-Macon – he returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to clinch Shenandoah’s 51-38 win.

“What’s been helping me is I feel like I get to play a lot lower compared to a lot of the offensive linemen,” Grady said of his pass-rushing success. “… To me, playing a lot lower than them and having the speed advantage, and I’ve been playing really good with my hands.”

Grady had arguably his greatest game of his collegiate career in last week’s win over Bridgewater, during which he tallied a career-high 10 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

“He’s got a great motor,” Yoder said of the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Front Royal native. “He’s so strong and he has great leverage and takeoff. Yes, people can block him but he gets to line up and do that 30, 40 times a game, he’s gonna get home. … He’s a nightmare to block and we know that from practicing against him. So it’s great to see him have success, and there’s a bunch of other guys out there on the field doing their jobs too, which lets him get to the quarterback. We’ll continue to hopefully (have) him be productive and help us defensively because those negative plays are huge.”

RACKING UP THE AWARDS: Shenandoah junior inside linebacker Kyle Dexter earned ODAC Defensive Player of the Week honors following his performance against Bridgewater, marking the fifth time in six weeks the Hornets have had a player earn one of the conference’s weekly awards.

Ironically enough, an SU offense that leads all of Division III in passing and ranks fourth in total offense has garnered just two of those awards – quarterback Hayden Bauserman earned Offensive Player of the Week honors following Weeks 6 and 7 – while the defense has netted three.

“See? We’re a defensive juggernaut,” Yoder quipped. “We’re defense first here.”

Dexter finished last week’s game with 11 total tackles and 1.5 sacks (his first of the season), and is tied for second on the team with 34 tackles this season.

“I think it just goes to show you, Dex had a great day, really productive. Had a big sack, a bunch of big tackles,” Yoder said. “And look across the board. You’ve got Devontae Dunn playing the best football he’s played. You’ve got Tyler Williams playing really well. You’ve got Chris Grady leading the league in sacks.

“I think you’ve gotta tip your hat to those guys. We’re not very user-friendly for the defense as an offense. We score fast and give it right back to them, or pick up the pace and if we don’t’ score it’s right back to them. They’ve really answered the bell.”

NEW ADDITION: The ODAC announced earlier this week that Southern Virginia University will join the conference as an associate member in football starting with the 2019 season.

Ferrum is set to join the ODAC next year, and the addition of SVU – located in Buena Vista – would bring football membership up to nine schools. That means the ODAC conference schedule could start as early as Week 2 or Week 3 in 2019, with schools needing to schedule just two non-conference games.

Yoder, whose team plays four non-conference games this season, said Wednesday he was happy with the addition.

“Just the way the area is, it’s really hard to find that third (non-conference) game. … You’ve gotta be creative. Look at what’s happening in the league. You’ve got Guilford playing Division I schools. You’ve got Bridgewater going who knows where, (Washington and Lee) playing teams in California. That’s all a product of what we all deal with,” Yoder said.

“The fact that we can get this with a team that’s in our region, it isn’t a huge road trip, I think, is a home run. … I think it’s great. It’s gonna change things but we only have to fill two weeks for non-conference and that’s gonna help everybody.”

INJURY REPORT: Yoder said on Wednesday that senior punter Christian Arias, who pulled a muscle in his kicking leg last week, had yet to kick in practice but began doing “active rehab” on Tuesday.

Arias, who also handles kickoffs, did not play against Bridgewater and though Yoder said the coaching staff is “leaving the door open” to the senior playing this weekend at Guilford, they’re planning to be without him for a second straight week.

Yoder added that freshman Hunter Youngblood would continue handling kickoffs and freshman receiver Brant Butler would continue punting in Arias’ absence.