Interior linemen in a 4-3 defense often go unnoticed by the fans and television commentators. They do the dirty work, filling running lanes and slamming into 300-pound linemen on every play.
Size and quickness are important to the trade, yes, but it takes a special breed to want to be a defensive tackle.
For the Rams, that breed takes the form of senior defensive tackle Erik Sandie.
Sandie, whose long blond hair that sticks out of the back of his helmet like the lead singer of an 80’s rock band, carries certain a level of recognition with fans and respect amongst his teammates for the job that he does on every play.
“I take pride in keeping the offensive linemen off the linebackers . I’d rather have them in the open field than me,” Sandie said with a smile.
At 6-foot-2, 296 pounds, Sandie has played in 42 games for the Rams since his arrival from Concord, Calif. in 2003.
Sandie came to Colorado State as a two-time first-team all-league selection and lineman of the year award winner for De La Salle High School. At the time of his graduation, De La Salle had the longest high school winning streak in the nation, a streak that lasted from 1992 until 2004 and stretched to 151 games.
Coming from the success that he had in high school to a team that has won just 34 percent (15-29) of its games in his time, here has been an adjustment for Sandie, but he said that closing in on the last few games of his collegiate career has helped him to reexamine his priorities.
“All you can do is really have fun,” Sandie said. “The main thing is winning. But another thing – me and (defensive tackle) Blake Smith talk a lot. We talk about having fun during the game. Some games were just kind of there, but mentally, I won’t say we’re in other places, but we’re not having fun or being enthusiastic. So the main thing is just to have fun with the guys around me and then definitely win.”
This season for the Rams, Sandie has recorded 33 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one sack.
When the Rams play New Mexico this weekend, the run defense will be looking to have the kind of fun that allowed them to hold a good Brigham Young rushing attack to 2.8 yards per carry last week.
Coach Sonny Lubick said that the defensive line will need to play well against the Lobos, who average 135.2 rushing yards per game.
“We just have to play like we have. We’ll have a chance to play decent defense. If we hold them to 100 yards or less, or lower than their average, or quite a bit lower like we did last week, that enhances us,” Lubick said.
For Sandie, that means doing the same dirty work that he has done for the last five years here at CSU.
“Just being there in the hole, being in the right spot, you just really have to be in position. You can’t be off balance going into the hole or anything like that. That’s going to definitely be big,” Sandie said. “But, like I said, I’m just going to be trying to keep guys off the linebackers so they can make plays.”
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Erik Sandie
Hometown: Concord, Calif.
By the Numbers
85 – Career tackles for CSU
4 – Career sacks
14 – Career tackles for a loss