Now as sophomores, that group has been through the fire of a Gulf South Conference season and is not only emerging into more prominent roles, but becoming some of the top play-makers on the field. And this past Saturday night, sophomore defensive end Amir Mustafaa did his part to steal the spotlight on the defensive side of the ball.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound former Westlake High School all-state performer was in on four sacks during the Wolves’ 55-3 beatdown of Point University, getting credit for a team-high eight tackles, including 3.5 for a loss with 2.5 sacks.
UWG coach Daryl Dickey said the athletic end simply has a nonstop motor — and it was on full display against the Skyhawks.
“Amir knows one speed — and that’s full speed every snap. It paid off for him Saturday, and it’ll certainly be a big test in this next ball game,” Dickey said of the Wolves’ upcoming contest with Tusculum College on Saturday at University Stadium.
Mustafaa recorded 23 tackles with two forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks last season as a freshman and is looking forward to a breakout sophomore campaign, noting how excited he is about the Wolves’ switch to a four-man front.
And while a strong showing against a new program like Point is one thing, the College Park product understands what the UWG defense is up against this week in Pioneer standout signal-caller Bo Cordell, who was a Harlon Hill finalist in 2010 before having his season cut short due to injury in 2011.
Cordell spearheads the Pioneers’ prolific offensive attack that saw him attempt 58 passes last week in Tusculum’s season opener, completing 38 of them for 389 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a 53-33 road loss at Urbana (Ohio).
Mustafaa said putting pressure on Cordell and not allowing him to establish a comfortable rhythm in the pocket will be crucial come Saturday.
“That would be huge. The D-line has been working probably the hardest we’ve been working — probably harder than in camp — we know we’ve got to get to him. [Cordell] is really their offense. If we take care of him, we’ve got a good shot,” Mustafaa said.
The UWG defense contained Cordell to 266 yards and no touchdowns last season in a 20-10 setback in Greeneville, Tenn., where he completed 32-of-46 attempts.
“He was pretty comfortable in the pocket last year, but that’s when we were a three-front. This year we’re a four-front, so I think we’re going to get a lot of pressure on him,” Mustafaa said.
Dickey echoed how critical it will be to try to get to Cordell early and often.
“Well, we can’t let him sit there and get comfortable. He’s got to feel the presence of a rush. He does such a really good job of moving the football and getting the football out. They’re a well-coached football team and [Tusculum coach] Frankie [DeBusk] does an excellent job with their team and I’m sure they’ll be well-prepared,” Dickey said.
Coming from a football family — his younger brother, Naim, is a 4-star linebacker at Alpharetta that committed to the University of Georgia this past summer and his dad, Najee, is a former Georgia Tech star that played seven seasons in the NFL — Mustafaa is hopeful of leaving his own legacy at UWG when all is said and done.
And in joining forces with a class that includes linebacker Teddy Lawrence — the reigning GSC Defensive Freshman of the Year — and a handful of others, Mustafaa believes there’s a lot of great things manifesting at West Georgia.
“That’s what I like about our defense is we’re so young and we’re so fast. I mean, just wait until next year and the year after that. We’re not even all the way there yet because we’re so young. I’m definitely excited for this year, but I’m excited about the future, too,” Mustafaa said.
Dickey said all the talented youth spread throughout the program offers a great product for the future.
“I mean, we’re actually a young football team. We’ve got three seniors on defense and only about five juniors. We’re a young football team, and the same’s for offense. That class is very talented and Amir’s certainly one of the leaders in it,” Dickey said.
And while the future indeed looks bright, this group also feels adamant that the time to start racking up the wins is here and now.
“We want to go undefeated. Win them all. We definitely want to win these first three games before we go into [conference] play. West Alabama is our first [conference] game. We’re taking it one game at a time. But we’re definitely ready to win,” Mustafaa said.