Tyler Sorensen has spent the past two summers working construction, good cross-training for tearing down opponents’ offenses as a defensive end for Nebraska Wesleyan.
“It was hot, so I was used to it when fall camp rolled around,” said Sorensen, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior.
“I’d usually come here after work to run and lift after work. That was a good combination to stay in shape.”
Sorensen, a Lincoln Northeast graduate, has continued to build off his second-team All-IIAC season a year ago by recording five tackles and two quarterback sacks in NWU’s 34-14 loss to Concordia, Minnesota, in the opener last Saturday.
He had 36 total tackles a year ago, including six for a loss. Sorensen showed his speed when he scooped up a fumble and rambled 85 yards for a touchdown against Loras last season.
It was that kind of agility that had Sorensen playing linebacker early in his Prairie Wolves career. But Sorensen’s size and strength, further enhanced by his dedication in the weight room, eventually earned him a spot on the line, even with a linebacker jersey number (55).
“Tyler was really good last year, and he’s just taken it to another level this season,” NWU coach Brian Keller said. “He’s now starting to understand what it takes to be an outstanding (defensive) tackle, and he’s perfecting his craft. He had never played with his hand on the ground before, and he had to learn all the technique and nuances that go with the position.”
The defensive line is a strength this season for the Prairie Wolves. Three defensive tackles — seniors Austin Shook and Trevor Holen, and junior Andrew Stolpe — started games a year ago. Junior Grant Bednar stepped into the other defensive end starting spot and recorded three tackles last week.
Concordia’s ground game between the tackles met heavy resistance from the NWU interior. The Cobbers, however, eventually found success on the edges running away from the defensive front, finishing with 238 yards rushing.
“Our game plan was to stop them up the middle and force them outside,” Sorensen said. “They changed things up and we didn’t make the adjustments quick enough.
“We have a lot of depth on the line, and that helps keep everyone fresh for later in the game,” he added. “Our offensive line has a lot of returners and that’s made for some physical practices. They’ve made us better.”
NWU will be facing a 14th-ranked (NCAA Division III) Illinois Wesleyan team in Bloomington, Ill. on Saturday that’s coming off a 17-10 upset win over No. 3 Wisconsin-Whitewater last week. The Prairie Wolves fell to Illinois Wesleyan 17-13 a year ago at home, a game NWU led 13-3 at half and 13-10 going into the fourth quarter.
“They (Illinois Wesleyan) have returning starters across their offensive line, so this will be a good game to see where we’re at,” Sorensen said. “They’ll be riding high after their big win, but we were competitive with them last year. They’re not unbeatable or untouchable.”