Vanderbilt defensive end's sack total rises — with a little help

Based on the numbers, Kyle Woestman is Vanderbilt’s best defensive lineman when it comes to getting to the quarterback.

The junior defensive end credits improvement — his own and that of his teammates — for his success.

“As my ability has risen so has that of all the defensive linemen around me,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest part to my success. … If I was just there affecting the pocket, [the quarterback] still would have someplace to scramble. Instead, I have three other guys on the line with me that kind of force him into my hands.

“So I kind of get lucky sometimes.”

Woestman had six sacks last season, which was second on the team to linebacker Chase Garnham. All of them came in the final seven games. Before his first, against Auburn, he played 18 games without one.

Then he had two of the Commodores’ four in last Thursday’s season-opening loss to Ole Miss. The only other SEC player with more than one in the opening weekend of play was Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers.

“This game I got two sacks but if you watch the film, one of them Vince Taylor, who was a first-time starter as well, had unbelievable pocket presence, kind of forcing [quarterback] Bo Wallace not having much room to scramble,” Woestman said. “So I was able to nab him there in the pocket.

“On the other one, we had our ‘wild’ package in with our four defensive ends and Walker [May] and Steve [Weatherly] did a great job of collapsing the pocket with the tackles, and I was [playing defensive tackle] and managed to wiggle my way around and make a play.”

Whatever the reason, Woestman now has four sacks in his last two games (he had two in the Music City Bowl victory against North Carolina State) and eight in the last eight contests.

If things get much better, he could become the first Vanderbilt player since Alan Young in 1993 to reach double figures in a season.

“I would say a lot of it has to do with confidence,” Woestman said. “It’s confidence in my playing ability and in the people next to me.

“It’s definitely been a big confidence factor. That’s been kind of the biggest change – our talent level and our ability to disrupt the pocket and make the quarterback feel under duress. And then just sack him.”