Wesley notebook: Caine enjoys success as linebacker

DOVER — There’s a certain simplicity to playing on the defensive front, says D.C. Caine.

“On the ‘D’ line you really don’t do anything but go,” said the Wesley College senior.

After switching from defensive end in the offseason, Caine can tell you that playing linebacker is a lot more complicated.

But the move is clearly paying off for the Wolverines now.

Caine forced two fumbles and recovered two in Wesley’s big 44-27 New Jersey Athletic Conference football victory at Salisbury last weekend.

Wesley’s D.C. Caine is fourth on the team with 51 tackles to go along with three sacks, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. (Wesley sports information)

Wesley’s D.C. Caine is fourth on the team with 51 tackles to go along with three sacks, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. (Wesley sports information)

The win means that 20th-ranked Wesley (7-1 NJAC, 7-2 overall) can clinch the program’s 12th straight NCAA Division III playoff bid when it hosts William Paterson (1-7, 2-7) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in its regular-season finale.

Coach Mike Drass said he’s tinkered with the idea of moving Caine to linebacker for the last couple years. But with the Wolverines’ depth on the defensive line coupled with a shortage at linebacker, it just made sense this season.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Caine played both end and linebacker in high school.

QB Nick Falkenberg was named NJAC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for four TDs and running for another in last Saturday's win over Salisbury. (Wesley sports information)

QB Nick Falkenberg was named NJAC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for four TDs and running for another in last Saturday’s win over Salisbury. (Wesley sports information)

“The thing with him is, he’s got great speed,” said Drass. “Once he tracks you, he’s going to get you. He’s still learning. But you can see he’s more comfortable.”

Early in the fourth quarter of the Salisbury game, with the Sea Gulls facing a fourth-and-goal from the 21, Caine sacked Salisbury quarterback Ryan Jones for a 12-yard loss, forced a fumble and then recovered it himself.

“He just ‘out-athleted’ the guy to the ball,” said Drass.

“It’s so exciting,” said Caine. “Everybody’s screaming. You live for those type of moments.”

It was plays like that which earned Caine a spot on the D3football.com Team of the Week. For the season, Caine is fourth on the team with 51 tackles to go along with three sacks, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

Caine agrees that he’s come a long way since the beginning of the season.

“I look at myself from before and I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’” he said with a laugh. “But now I’m real comfortable with my position. You can’t go in there nervous. You’ve got to play football.

“The biggest change is just knowing the coverages,” said Caine. “But I’ve got it down. Coach did a real good job getting me in the right place where I need to be.”

Miller switches, too

When people saw Capp Miller playing safety against Salisbury, many Wesley fans figured there was a number change.

After all, Miller plays wide receiver for Wesley.

But that really was the 5-foot-9, 155-pound sophomore playing defensive back. And he played like a veteran, too, recording 11 tackles and forcing a fumble in the victory.

Drass said Miller was just a natural fit for the defense that Wesley plays against the triple option. He played safety in high school.

“He’s such a good football player,” said Drass. “There’s nothing that that kid can’t do. I just had a gut feeling that he would be really good at it (playing safety). He was great.

“He made some unbelievable tackles, he was getting off blocks, he forced a fumble. He was all over the field.”

Drass said you’ll continue to see Miller on both offense and defense. He has 15 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown while running it 12 times for 66 yards.

“We have quality players in the secondary,” said Drass. “But, as much as need him on offense, he’s just so instinctive when it comes to covering people. And, physically, we’ve seen on special teams how he can hit.”

Falkenberg move pays off

Drass clearly isn’t afraid to make personnel changes, even when the Wolverines are on a winning streak.

And of course no move paid bigger dividends than putting quarterback Nick Falkenberg back into the starting lineup two weeks ago.

The junior was named the NJAC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for four TDs and running for another in the win over the Sea Gulls.

Falkenberg didn’t turn the ball over, either — which was big considering he’d thrown five interceptions in his two previous starts.

“I can’t get in his head and figure out where he was earlier in the year,” said Drass. “But, especially last week, he seemed real comfortable back there. And that just comes with experience.”

When he watched the game film, Falkenberg still saw plenty of mistakes he made. Late in the second quarter, he overthrew running back Jamar Baynard, who was uncovered going into the end zone.

“You don’t really like to look at the great plays,” said Falkenberg. “You expect those. You look at the bad plays and try to correct them.”

Extra points

Wesley moved up four spots to No. 4 in the official NCAA Division III East Regional rankings after beating Salisbury. That ranking could be an important factor when the NCAA playoff pairings are determined on Sunday. … Alfred (9-0), St. John Fisher (8-1) and Hobart (8-1) are the only three teams ranked ahead of the Wolverines. … Frostburg State, which is tied with Wesley for first place in the NJAC standings, hosts rival Salisbury in its regular-season finale on Saturday. … Wesley had two kicks blocked at Salisbury — a short field goal and a PAT.

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