Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

SUWANEE -- Like their counterparts on the offensive line, defensive linemen aren't always the most noticeable players on a football field.

But also like the offensive linemen, a team's defensive playmakers wouldn't be able to do their jobs without the big men doing the grunt work in the trenches.

So, in a lot of ways, the season Jimmy Bayer had as Collins Hill's starting defensive tackle made him a poster child for "underappreciated" defensive linemen everywhere.

However, the 6-foot-2, 275-pound senior is getting his due as he suits up for Team Kevin Maloof in the Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star football game Saturday at Grayson's Britt-Moody Field.

And the efforts that earned him that spot in the game certainly didn't go unnoticed or unappreciated by Collins Hill's coaches or players during the Eagles' 8-3 season that included their seventh postseason berth this decade.

"Jimmy's had an outstanding season," Collins Hill head coach Billy Wells said. "Certainly a guy like him at 275 pounds is really solid in the middle. ... While (safety) Chris Caspari led our team in tackles (with 121), some of that is attributed to the fact the B-gaps are usually occupied by linemen like Jimmy and (fellow senior) Nick Diemer.

"Good players make plays, and that's a good attitude for a defensive lineman to have."

Bayer definitely kept his team-first attitude while doing his job this season, and doing it well.

His 46 combined tackles and assists were right on par with the top interior defensive linemen in Gwinnett County, including just four short of the total put up by Grayson's Shawn Green, a Georgia Tech commitment widely considered among the state's best defensive tackles.

Like most defensive linemen, the results were usually more seen in others' numbers, like the aforementioned 121 tackles by Caspari, who will join Bayer and three other Collins Hill players on Team Kevin Maloof on Saturday.

And Bayer didn't mind a bit.

"In my position, you have to be unselfish," Bayer said. "The job is to give the linebackers and defensive backs more of a chance to make the tackle. Once in a while, we'll get some sacks or tackles, but it's mainly a more unselfish position."

In Bayer's case, however, doing his job entailed a bit more than usually called on for an interior lineman, particularly on the pass rush.

Of his 46 tackles, 12 of them -- more than a quarter of the total -- were sacks, good enough to lead all of Gwinnett pass rushers despite playing a position less conducive to get pressure on quarterbacks than linebackers or defensive ends.

Wells attributes Bayer's success to a few factors, mainly his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, as well as his size and strength to get a good push up the middle.

However, he also believes Bayer's secret weapon may be his underrated quickness and footwork.

"Of course he's big and strong," Wells said of Bayer. "But he also has that ability to escape and make plays outside his gaps."

Bayer also looks to the presence of Diemer, who played alongside him at noseguard and also had a strong season with 32 tackles and a sack. He earned an invite to the All-Stars of Gwinnett game, but will be unable to participate due to illness.

It was a reunion of sorts as the 6-31/2, 288-pound senior played this season for the first time in two years after being coaxed back by Bayer and other teammates after his two-year hiatus from football.

And Bayer, for one, was glad to have him back.

"He played with us from the time we were 6 or 7 up until our freshman year," Bayer said of Diemer. "He saw what we did last year and thought he could help us this year.

"I think he really helped because he was another big body up front. Our linemen weren't the biggest. We were more quick. So, it was good to have him come out and get another big body, which really helped out the linebackers."

Both Bayer and Diemer have demonstrated their capability of playing at the next level next year.

Bayer has already garnered interest from strong Division I-AA programs like Samford, Furman and Tennessee-Chattanooga, Division II programs like Valdosta State and Lenoir-Rhyne and NAIA schools Shorter and Pikeville (Ky.).

And Wells is hoping Saturday's game will be a chance for him to open even more eyes.

"I'm hoping it will be a big week for those guys," Wells said.