FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Ramsey Is Ready To Rush
After missing almost all of the 2011 campaign, Kaleb Ramsey is back to terrify opposing quarterbacks
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
For Kaleb Ramsey, the 2012 football season has been a long time coming.
The 6-foot-3, 288-pound defensive tackle is gearing up for his final season as a Boston College Eagle. From Uniontown, Penn., Ramsey will not only provide this year’s defensive line with hard work and experience, but will also serve a leadership role as one of the team’s four captains.
At Laurel High School, Ramsey played both defensive end and tight end, in addition to earning All-State honors on the basketball team. Over his first two years with BC, he earned more and more minutes of playing time, picking up his first career sack versus Clemson as a sophomore in 2009.
His breakout season came the year after, when Ramsey made a team-high 39 tackles over 11 games. In the Kraft Hunger Bowl, he helped the Eagles hold the high-powered Nevada offense to 20 points with two tackles for a loss and a sack. Soon after, he began preparing for the 2011 season, which was supposed to be the final touch of a solid collegiate career.
That plan evaporated just one game in after Ramsey went down in the opening loss against Northwestern with an injured left foot, just one problem that arose from the 24-17 heartbreaker. He tried to make a comeback three weeks later in the Eagles’ Sept. 24 matchup against UMass, but saw only a few snaps. The diagnosis came in—plantar fasciitis, or an aggravation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot.
The big man faced a tough choice—either push hard through rehab and hope to recover in time to help the Eagles’ leaky defense, or take it slow and heal up, at the cost of his senior season. After talking with his parents, head coach Frank Spaziani, and athletic director Gene DeFilippo, Ramsey opted to don a medical redshirt.
“It was definitely difficult watching my team struggle, knowing that I could be a difference maker out there,” Ramsey said. Even with All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly as the defense’s anchor, the Eagles struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. A scant 11 sacks on the year put the defense in 114th place among Division 1-A teams, and of the 282 points the Eagles gave up, 88 came in the fourth quarter. Through it all, Ramsey was forced to watch from the sidelines.
“It humbled me,” he said about the ordeal. “It made me hungrier for next season. I learned the lesson that any play [could be] your last snap, [and] that every time I go on the football field, I have to go full speed no matter what, because you never know.”
The procedures, physical therapy, and makeup work that an injury entails can and have swallowed athletes whole, but Ramsey committed himself to a full recovery. Over the course of the preseason, he’s tried out a few unorthodox methods of getting back into shape.
One of the methods is a rigorous stretching program that Ramsey heard about through two teammates, punter Gerald Lavano and offensive tackle Emmett Cleary. Overseen by fitness guru Bob Cooley, the players went through a series of high-intensity stretches.
“You add pressure to [your body] when you stretch,” Ramsey said. “It paid off. It felt great. I definitely feel a lot more flexible.” According to Cooley’s website, his Resistance Flexibility Technologies program helps to increase flexibility by eliminating “accumulated dense fascia and scar tissue.”
In addition to the stretching, defensive line coach Jeff Comissiong brought in a sensei to instruct Ramsey and his fellow linemen on how to use their hands to gain the advantage over their opponents.
“[We learned] the weak points on their arms, [and how to] use their body weight against them,” Ramsey said. “We can’t wait to use it.”
As one of the four captains of this year’s squad, Ramsey considers his health to be the primary requisite of his leadership.
“I need to try to stay healthy, and be out there for my teammates every play, every snap,” he said. “I’m not a vocal guy to begin with. [I plan to] just to lead by action, show the young guys how it’s done.
“If someone questions, or they’re tired, they’ll look at me and see how hard I’m going, and they’ll be able to pick it up.”
Ramsey saw some action in Saturday’s 41-32 loss to Miami, including a forced fumble in the second quarter, which the Hurricanes managed to recover. It was one of two assisted tackles for the lineman on the day.
The defensive unit, however, gave up two big touchdown runs to Miami freshman Duke Johnson. “We did fight and stop them a couple of times, but not when we needed to,” head coach Frank Spaziani said after the game. “You can’t give up big plays.”
Although Miami is now behind them, the Eagles defense will continue to face challenges throughout the schedule. Florida State’s sophomore running back James Wilder, Jr. ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns in their season opener, and Clemson’s Andre Ellington racked up 231 yards his opener.
With standout running backs looming across the schedule, it’ll be up to Ramsey and the rest of the upperclassmen to be there to stop the big plays.