Justin McIntyre got a taste of what college football is like in 2012.
As a freshman, McIntyre spent much of the season on special teams, but in the final three games, he was moved into the starting lineup on the defensive line.
With that experience under his belt, McIntyre headed into the off-season committed to making sure he was as prepared as possible for the 2013 season.
“I worked hard over the summer and just got my mind right coming into the season, buying into the system that coach (Terry) Ursin has put together,” McIntyre said.
So far, so good.
McIntyre, who played his high-school ball at South Effingham near Savannah, has been an impact player for the Panthers.
He’s tops among defensive linemen with 18 tackles, and he also has two tackles for loss and an interception.
McIntyre’s best game came in Week 3 when he helped the Panthers beat Greensboro 35-21.
McIntyre had a blocked punt that led to a touchdown, and he was named the USA South special-teams player of the week.
McIntyre also had six tackles, an interception and a forced fumble, and he was named the team’s defensive player of the week.
Last week in a 50-26 win over North Carolina-Wesleyan, McIntyre had four tackles, including a sack.
LaGrange College head coach Todd Mooney believes the experience McIntyre gained a year ago has been valuable.
“He got a lot of reps that freshmen sometimes don’t get,” Mooney said. “That experience has caused him to grow up a little bit faster, and he’s making a big impact on our defense.”
There are a handful of freshmen who are getting a lot of playing time on defense this season, and McIntyre has tried to help them acclimate to the college game.
“You definitely try to step up and be an example for those guys,” McIntyre said. “They are freshmen, and they’re still getting used to the college speed. They’re doing a great job.”
McIntyre is part of a defense that was dominant last week against North Carolina-Wesleyan.
The Panthers didn’t give up a point in the first half as they charged out to a 34-0 lead.
North Carolina-Wesleyan did score 20 points in the fourth quarter, but the outcome had long since been decided.
Senior linebacker Andre Carter had 13 tackles, and Brandon Penn had six tackles and an interception.
Nick Raszeja also had six tackles, and Jordan Chambers, Scott Chewning and Connor McNamee had five tackles apiece.
“Those guys collectively, they came out ready to go against North Carolina-Wesleyan,” Mooney said. “When you’re executing like you are on offense, and those guys are out there smacking them in the mouth and giving us the ball back, that’s the kind of ball you want to be playing.”
The Panthers have been putting up big numbers on offense this season, but McIntyre said the defensive players still approach each game with the goal of throwing a shutout.
“With the numbers they put up, it makes it a lot easier for us, but we still have to go hard, and try to get a goose egg,” McIntyre said.