Coach Courtney Sanders Talks About the Bears' Defensive Line
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This fall, MSU returns 14 squad members on the defensive front, including 8 lettermen and all 3 starters. Nose tackle Eric Pearce started all 11 games, while defensive ends Anthony Grady and Martin Montgomery earned the starting call 8 and 5 times, respectively. C.J. Randall, Tevan Ferguson and Corey Feagin also earned valuable starting experience in 2012 for a d-line that tallied 2.1 sacks per game and allowed less than 200 yards per game through the air.
Grady earned All-MVC honorable mention distinction and helped the Bears with 49 tackles, including 8 for loss with 5 sacks.
The same core unit of Pearce, Ferguson and Montgomery combined for 97 total stops in 2011 while averaging 1.64 sacks per game. Senior Mikel Ruder earned All-MVFC second-team honors from his left defensive end spot.
In 2010, the Bears' front three included seniors Levi Moore and Waylon Richardet who combined for 79 tackles in the 3-4 set.
The 2010 Bears ranked 24th nationally in sacks per game (2.45) and were 69th in rushing defense.
In his second season with the Bears in 2009, Sanders coached second-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference defensive end Richardet, and fellow starter Ruder. The pair combined for 22 starts and accumulate 89 total tackles, including 10 for loss.
Since his arrival, Sanders has helped the Bears' pass rush improve dramatically, from 0.91 sacks per game in 2008 to a nationally-ranked 2.45 average in 2010.
Sanders is a native of Stamps, Ark., where he was a four-sport athlete in high school with numerous all-state honors in football as a senior. He played football for three seasons for the Boll Weevils at Arkansas-Monticello and graduated in 2002 from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where he also earned his master's degree in 2006.
While at Arkansas, he worked on the Razorbacks' football staff in a variety of assignments from 2001-08. Among those tasks was working in quality control on both offense and defense, including film breakdown and academic monitoring of student-athletes. He was also a graduate assistant on the defensive side of the football, and worked for one season in the strength and conditioning department.
During his tenure with the Arkansas Razorbacks, he worked alongside several future NFL stars, including Eagles' offensive tackle Jason Peters, Atlanta defensive end Jamaal Anderson, and Chicago Bears' defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, among others.
In addition to his duties as the Bears' defensive line coach, he is responsible for recruiting the state of Arkansas while serving as a liaison with the Bears' strength and conditioning program.
He and his wife, Veronica, are the parents of two daughters, Courtland and Layla Star.