Greg Billinger does not look forward to the final game of his college career.
“Honestly, I try to play the next game like it’s the first game of the season,” he said. “Therefore, you don’t dwell on the statistics and you don’t get kind of overwhelmed and think you’re awesome for getting a sack.”
When he does look back on his senior season at Vanderbilt, one thing that will stand out will be the number of plays he made in the backfield.
Billinger, a defensive tackle out of Lilburn, Ga., currently leads the Commodores in sacks with three and a half and tops all defensive linemen in tackles for a loss with five. In his first three seasons combined he had just two and a half sacks and five tackles for losses.
He also has one quarterback hurry and the first forced fumble of his career.
“I think it’s probably just experience,” coach Bobby Johnson said. “He’s a good player and we have other good players in there too who make it a situation where he’s not being double-teamed all the time or whatever. Anytime you have several threats, it gives everybody a pretty equal chance.”
Billinger was a backup during his first two seasons at Vanderbilt, but has started every game of the last two.
He played more snaps than any defensive tackle on the team in 2008 and has shown up on the stat sheet more than ever this fall. In addition to his sacks and tackles for a loss, he also already has a career high 18 unassisted tackles, and he has two more games to add to those numbers.
“I have to credit the (defensive) line,” Billinger said. “The D-line’s doing a great job. All of my sacks are off of schemes we put through. We’re definitely working hard as a D-line.”
Billinger is one of three senior starters on the defensive line. Defensive ends Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone are the others.
Stewart’s production basically has remained in line with his previous seasons, although he’s on pace for a career-low in sacks. Stone’s stats have been hurt by the fact that he missed the first seven games with an injury.
The fourth is junior defensive tackle Adam Smotherman. He too already has set career-highs for tackles and tackles for a loss.
“That position normally does (get double-teamed),” Johnson said. “One of those two inside guys (faces two blockers) unless we’re bringing pressure and try to design it where there are no double teams.
“In a normal four-man pass rush, (Billinger) will probably get some.”
If the numbers are any indication, Billinger has received increased attention from offensive lines in recent weeks.
He has not recorded a sack or a tackle for a loss in either of the last two contests. He has, however, made a total of 11 tackles in those games – losses to Georgia Tech and Florida – the best two-game total of his career.
Still, the Commodores matched their season-high last Saturday at Florida with four sacks – two and a half of which were by defensive linemen.
“Every sack that we all get comes from one another,” Billinger said. “There’s guys picking up two offensive linemen so one of us is free.”
More than ever this season, such situations have ended with him making the play.