August 25, 2011

Jeff Rieskamp ready to get after opponents

After redshirt senior defensive end Jeff Rieskamp missed the entire 2009 season with a sports hernia, he was really looking forward to getting back on the field last fall. He described being at the, "lowest of lows," while sitting out with an injury, but it made last season's results even sweeter.

Rieskamp started in 11 of the 12 games he played in and tallied 27 tackles, 17 quarterback pressures, four tackles for loss, two sacks, a pair of pass breakups and recovered a fumble in his first season as a full-time starter. More importantly, he helped the No. 25 Wolfpack reach nine wins and earn a spot in the season's final rankings.

"It's a great feeling to come off an injury then be a part of a helping a program to where it's never been before," he said. "It's a great feeling to get to be around all the guys that you didn't get to be around for a year while you were laid up on the shelf. It's just great coming back and being a part of the team again.

"Just winning the bowl game and proving to everybody that we can beat a nationally ranked team like that was the highlight. Everybody outside of the Wolfpack community said we couldn't do it but we came out knowing in our hearts that we could. It really doesn't matter what anybody thinks outside of the Wolfpack nation and outside the team. We know we can do anything we set our minds to."

The 17 quarterback pressures tallied by the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder tied for a team high and he wasn't even lining up on the side of the line that is considered the pass rushing side. However, he will be focused on pressuring opponents this season from the non-tight end side.

"I started off my career here on the weak side then last year I was on the strong side," Rieskamp explained. "Now, I'm going to be come back to the weak side. It's nice being able to come off the edge, I feel like I can get more opportunities at the quarterback from the weak side. You don't have somebody over you all the time so you can get off the edge more. There's an opportunity to make more plays."

While the Cincinnati, Ohio native is embracing the chance to be more of a disruption in the passing game during his final campaign, he said it doesn't matter where he plays, as long as he is contributing to the team's success.

"Wherever they put me, I'm going to play," he said. "I'm not going to be disappointed either way, I just like to be on the field and making an impact.

"I'm confident wherever the coaches on defense put us, I have every bit of confidence in the coaches and whatever decision they make. We know they have our best interests in mind. I feel like our defensive unit is really strong. We've got depth and I feel like our defensive line is really strong this year."

The trio of fifth-year seniors on the front line - Rieskamp, Markus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy - is highly experienced on the college level, each has appeared in at least 24 games. However, there are also youngsters emerging, which has Rieskamp's confidence in his teammates sky high.

"Art [Norman], who is behind me at defensive end, is unbelievable, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with this year," he said. "I feel like the defensive line is really stepping up and the defense is really coming together. This is probably the best defense I've been a part of and we've still got a lot of room to improve, but we're on our way.

"Every defensive line I've been on, I'm always confident in the guys next to me. We've worked hard to get to the point where we are at and we're trying to be better than last year."

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