Abilene Wylie senior Dion Novil still remembers just how much weight he had to put on to get ready to play defensive tackle at North Texas.
“I had a lot of motivation to gain that weight because I really wanted to get on the field,” Novil said. “It was constant weight training and eating.”
At the time, he was an overlooked two-star sophomore defensive end stuck behind all-conference teammate LaDarius Hamilton. But when he got a shot in the starting lineup at both end and tackle – especially after a three tackle-for-loss performance against Southern Miss – the staff realized they had to get Novil on the field.
So Novil was told to add significant bulk – 50 pounds worth. In an offseason, Novil said he went from around 265 pounds up to a hulking 315 pounds, bigger than many of the defensive tackles taken in the 2020 NFL Draft. In his first season as the starting defensive tackle, his production exploded.
Novil posted 61 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks during his breakout season. He led all defensive linemen on the team in tackles, which is rare for a nose tackle. In the role, he helped create openings for teammates, which allowed Hamilton to finish with a career high eight sacks.
“I was getting double-teamed a lot more, but I felt like I was making more of an impact at that position,” Novil said. “I kind of took what I knew from playing the end to the tackle position, and I think that helped me a lot.”
When Clint Bowen arrived, he was immediately drawn to Novil’s film. His 3-3-5 stack defense relies on having elite production from the interior defensive line.
“If your nose can’t up, we can’t play this defense,” Bowen said. “He’s going to get beat up in there. He’s got to be a legitimate guy that can hold a point, and he can. It was really fortunate to step on campus and have a guy already on the team that fit what we needed.”
With both defensive ends gone to graduation, Novil knows he must play his best football in his final season for North Texas to chase an elusive Conference USA championship.
“I think I’ll play a big role in the defense, so I don’t want to let the defense down,” Novil said. “I don’t want to let my teammates down. I’m taking it as a challenge.”
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