Junior outside linebacker Prince Shembo has boiled the Cat position down to two words: “Get sacks.”
Of course, there’s more to it than that, but it’s hunting down opposing quarterbacks and stopping the run on which the former defensive end at Ardrey Kelly High in Charlotte, N.C., is intently focused.
“You look at some of the guys that play outside linebacker around the [NFL],” said Shembo, a 6-foot-2, 250-pounder who has played in 25 games and made eight starts (all in 2011), and lined up at the Dog (or drop) spot last fall. “DeMarcus Ware, for instance, what makes him great? He gets like 19 sacks. Terrell Suggs. All those guys are Cats. I watch those guys. James Harrison, for instance — same stature as me. He gets sacks and [tackles for loss]. That’s the key for that position.
“Each of them has a different style of play. James Harrison is a strong man. He likes to bull rush and to rip and stuff like that. DeMarcus Ware is more of a speed guy, but all the running responsibilities are the same regardless.”
With significantly less space to guard against the pass, Shembo, arguably the team’s best rusher, is salivating at the chance to stick it to QBs. It’s what he grew up doing.
“I might not look the biggest, but I’m telling you I’m strong,” he said. “I’m telling you, don’t sleep on me — don’t. I’m getting back to my old self and doing what I did when I was young. Don’t change for anyone; just follow your heart and your purpose.”
Sophomore Ishaq Williams has three inches and five pounds on Shembo, who missed time in the spring do to a turf toe, and used that size last year as a rookie to record six tackles (one for loss) in 11 games. The two are expected to split time this season.
Shembo doesn’t waste time wishing he were bigger or wondering about how reps will be distributed.
“He’s doing great,” Shembo said of Williams. “I don’t have height, but I’ve got strength. I’m like a Silverback. I don’t know what coach has planned, but I’ll have to wait until the first game or second game. We’ll see.”
The two players are responsible for filling the void by the graduation of Darius Fleming, whom Shembo has always admired.
“He’s a technician,” Shembo said. “He’s got great technique all around. He’s also a good listener. He could take directions well. I’m still working on technique, but I’ll always listen. I’ll pay attention all the time.”
Well, maybe he doesn’t always listen. Shembo was put in a boot during the spring and didn’t exactly heed doctors’ advice.
“I couldn’t really walk and couldn’t burn a calorie at all,” he said. “You just have to put away the sweets and change your diet. … Watch out for the cookies. I just had that big urge [to keep moving]. People don’t know I was running around in my boot. I don’t really care.”
As for what Shembo wanted to improve on coming off a 2011 season that included 31 tackles and two sacks, the goal was equally simple.
“Just dominate,” he said.