Keeping defenders fresh will be season-long challenge for Chiefs
LOGAN — Many of the players who will be trying to put points on the scoreboard on offense for the Logan Chieftains this season will be the same ones trying to prevent them on defense.
Finding a way to keep those players as fresh as possible will be a season-long challenge for the Purple & White.
“The A-number one (challenge) for us is to manage our substitution patterns,” said Logan coach Billy Burke. “Each week, each team is going to give us a different dynamic as to how much we play kids in whatever position.
“We’ve instituted more of a package situation where we get specific kids on the field with specific skill-sets against a certain offensive scheme.”
Most of Logan’s offensive linemen will double on the D-line; the Chiefs’ three main running backs are linebackers, and most of Logan’s receivers are also in the defensive backfield. Logan could have as many as eight or nine athletes playing both ways.
While talented and versatile, many are also inexperienced.
“We played a pretty aggressive style of defense last year where we committed a lot of guys to the run and man-coverage behind that. That was pretty good to us,” Burke said. “But at the same time, you don’t want to make a living doing something like that each and every week. Teams from a year ago have a chance to look at it and diagnose it and find things to counter-act.
“We’ve gone back to more of a traditional base-type of scheme in which we’ll make pre-determined calls who we’re going to blitz, what covers we’re going to run, and not necessarily have to commit guys to overwhelm the (other team’s) offense,” he added. “We can play more fundamentally and still play great defense.”
The defensive line, Burke notes, will be packaged into different situational groups.
“Kevin Fisher (6-foot-9, 230 pounds), D.J. Madison (6-2, 215) and Kory Henthorne (6-6, 255) are playing some solid defensive end for us, not to mention Tommy Hayden (6-3, 210) — you kind of forget his name because he’s so consistent and he gets taken for granted,” Burke said. “On the interior are Zach Buckley (6-0, 295), Brandon Skinner (6-0, 290), Keith Martin (6-1, 260), Josh Rardain (6-0, 200) and Will Esteph (6-1, 205).
“If we keep our defensive linemen fresh, that keeps the pressure on an offense… it makes it a little easier on your linebackers and your secondary to still get after the football and get a good pass rush,” he continued. “Kids still are still aggressive and have to be blocked up front and (opponents) have a hard time getting to our second level.”
The Chiefs’ inside linebackers — Bryce McBride (5-11, 190), Dean Jordan (5-11, 200) and Colton Stilwell (5-9, 200) — are also their running backs.
“We don’t necessarily have the luxury of getting a ton of linebackers rotated through,” Burke admitted. “We have guys we feel confident in, but we want to keep the defensive line fresh and still keep after the quarterback and execute on the line to take away the running game.
“Two of our outside linebacker positions are going to be filled by Caleb Lewellen (6-2, 180), Brendan Karns (5-9, 175) and Domonic Micochero (5-9, 175),” he added. “If we can teach a Domonic Micochero an inside linebacker position, that can help add to our depth. We think he’s got some skill sets (to move him around), but at the same time we want him to feel good about where he’s playing on the outside before we go tinkering with moving him all over the place.”
Seniors Brandon Arnett (6-0, 160) and Joe Foltz (6-2, 175) will be the Chiefs’ staples at cornerback.
“Brandon has a year under his belt last year and Joe’s played corner pretty well for us this year,” Burke said. “That can allow everybody else who rotates in a lot at receiver to come in and spell some time and play some and situational football in the secondary. At the same time, Brandon can still contribute at running back and Joe can still contribute as a receiver.”
Senior Casey Phillips (6-2, 160) is the free safety. Phillips and Arnett both had three interceptions to lead the Logan defense last fall.
Phillips “has really blossomed this year,” Burke praised. “I feel really good about Casey being our free safety. I think he’s going to get his hands on a lot of footballs this season. He’s matured and developed confidence.
“It’s comforting to know the free safety is somebody you can really count on, because a lot of times he has to erase some mistakes that happen (up front) from time to time,” he continued. “He’s very athletic, and now that he’s comfortable with what he’s doing, it gives him the confidence to play his position a lot faster.”
Burke noted that having receivers on offense also filling the defensive back positions serves a dual purpose when learning the two positions.
“They’re sort of playing the counter-position on offense to their defensive position,” he stated. “It teaches them the nuance of their position. If we play a (certain) coverage, how would you beat it as a receiver? At the same time, these are things you want to anticipate as a defensive back against a receiving corps because you play receiver.”
Jordan was the Chiefs’ primary punter last season (34 yards per kick on 22 punts) and retains those duties this year. Chance Cox (6-2, 155) takes over for the graduated Charles Bowlby for placement kicks.
“You put an athlete in there (to kick) and he’ll find a way to get it done,” Burke said. “I’m not sure what (Cox’s) range is yet, but if it’s 20 yards (to convert an extra point) we’ll feel pretty good about that.”
Logan has not made a field goal since the 2011 season.
Cox, Isaiah Smith (6-4, 190) and Phillips are the primary kickoff and punt returners. Rardain serves as the short snapper for placement kicks and McBride will be the long snapper for punts.