Defense should have a little depth, strength in trenches
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By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — While you’ll likely see many of the same players on defense who play a lot of snaps on offense, the Logan Chieftains appear to have a little more depth on that side of the ball.
“Probably we would have as many (potential players), but at the same time we might have a little more depth at each position,” said Logan coach Billy Burke. “The ideal situation is that everyone on your varsity roster plays — that keeps everybody as fresh as possible — but some guys just aren’t ready to play on Friday night. The more guys we have ready to play on Friday night, the better we’ll be.
“I feel pretty good about the amount of kids we have who are capable of playing on Friday night on either side of the football,” he added. “There’s a reason a guy is a two-way starter: if he can play on offense he can probably play on defense, and vice-versa. We are pretty happy with the capable guys we have.”
The result were 43-42 (2OT) and 44-40 setbacks to Lancaster and Teays Valley, respectively, marking the first and second times in school history in which Logan scored 35 points and did not win. A couple more defensive stops here and there might have resulted in two or three more wins.
But the Logan defense did improve dramatically the rest of the way. The Chiefs permitted only 879 total yards in their five victories and the overall per-game average dropped from 514 yards per game after the first two contests to 316 by season’s end.
Along the D-line line, Burke — now doubling as defensive coordinator — notes that much of the personnel from offense will be the same on defense.
“Essentially the same guys we named on the offensive line (see related story): we think we can get an eight-guy rotation on the defensive line,” Burke pointed out. “We can put four guys in (to replace linemen who played the previous offensive series) and feel good about them playing.
“I don’t know if Tommy Hayden ever gets tired,” Burke added. “He will be out there giving us consistent snaps. We have the athleticism of Kory Henthorne, really good size on the interior in Zach Buckley, Brandon Skinner and Eddie Lanning, and the sophomores (Chris Harper and Kamryn Carter) I mentioned before. And the most undersized of the bunch (Josh Rardain) is probably the scrappiest of the bunch (and) might be the toughest of the bunch.”
With the exception of Bryce McBride, the Chiefs don’t return a lot of experience at linebacker.
Linebacker “is probably our least-experienced group,” Burke said. “We have guys who have played a little bit but we have some work to do.”
Seniors such as McBride, Colton Stilwell, Domonic Micochero and Brendan Karns are the forerunners for those three slots but by no means are they the only ones who will play there.
“Stilwell played some (last season) but not a ton,” Burke noted “We have to be smart about how much McBride plays because if he’s hauling the mail (running the ball on offense) every play I don’t want to necessarily throw him in at linebacker all the time.
“Micochero on the outside played some last year,” he added. “Brendan Karns is going to play outside backer, and we have some young guys like Kyle Spelock (5-11, 160, junior) — we’re happy with how he scrimmaged against Circleville — Tomas Wright (6-1, 180, junior) and Cymon Rooker (5-11, 175, sophomore).”
Logan will definitely feature some good athletes in the defensive backfield.
“Isaiah Smith is going to play more full-time at free safety,” Burke said. “Brady Walsh will play some strong safety along with Brendan Karns — sort of an outside linebacker/strong safety position — and Lane Little is going to play some corner or free safety.”
Jenson Wallace will be a cornerback, “Riley Nelson is looking for an opportunity to play, (as is) Casey Heft (5-9, 135, sophomore), and we have to replace Wilson, who we thought might be our number-one guy at corner.”
Burke is not concerned about Little adding defense to his quarterback duties.
“I know in my heart of hearts he’s a ‘put me in at corner, put me in at free safety, heck, put me in at linebacker. I just want to play football’ “ kind of player, Burke praised. “What’s nice about him is that I don’t have to necessarily have to give him a lot of physical opportunities to play corner or free safety.
“He’s a student of the game, he’s smart and he’s competitive,” the Logan coach added. “He’s learning as the other guys are being coached up even though he isn’t necessarily in (the game). That’s great comfort knowing Lane’s prepared wherever we might need him. He was sort of our nickel strong safety for one play against Circleville even though we don’t have that in… we get a little different dynamic of an athlete on a third-and-long situation.”
Smith and Little are slated to handle punting and kicking duties, with Wallace, Smith, Nelson, Heft and Little among those expected to return kickoffs and punts. Rardain and McBride return as long and short-snappers on placements and punts, and Little and Colton Dixon (5-10, 135, junior) will hold for placekicks.
The kicking game has been an issue for the Chiefs since Derek Montgomery kicked for Logan. He was the last player to make a field goal — in the regular-season finale against Chillicothe in 2010 — and, in fact, Logan has only attempted two field goals (one each of the last two seasons) since then. Smith booted a FG in a 2012 freshman game.
“Defensively, I think we’re going to be pretty happy,” Burke said. “I feel pretty good about the defense because it starts out front. If the line can establish themselves and we can pressure the quarterback with just four defensive linemen, that will make us a lot better.”