Fast and Furious: Speed the key to Frenship defense
Frenship’s defense is built like a marquee tail back.
Strength and vision up the middle. Speed on the outside.
The base of the Tigers’ 3-4 defense is designed to stop those premier backs, beginning with the very same strength in the middle and speed on the outside.
“One of the things we try to do defensively is put athletes out there with speed, as many as we can,” Davis said. “Obviously on your front three you’re going to have to have kids with size and strength and all that, and your inside backers need to be strong and physical, but those other six kids we want as much speed on the field as we can get.
“It’s all about speed on defense.”
The Tigers lost seven starters on last year’s district champion team that allowed 270 yards per game. On average, only 89 of those yards came on the ground each week.
The core of the run defense is back to the tune of three returning defensive linemen and the All-South Plains 5A-4A defensive player of the year, linebacker Stephen Smith.
The senior Smith, who has started since he was a sophomore, logged 181 tackles, two interceptions and a pair of sacks.
Smith, although a burly defender at 6-foot, 210 pounds, also has good lateral speed where he can plug the gaps of opposing running backs.
“He’s quick,” Davis said. “He’s got really good speed for an inside backer. He’s physical, has a good nose for the football and he makes really good plays. When you have a kid that makes good plays, he needs to be on the field.”
Smith said there is some pressure on the defense to perform this year because of the overhaul of new players.
However, he is confident the returning starters can help along the new guys, and he expects the defensive line to be the defense’s strong spot.
“I think Carson Dunn is going to be really good to tell you the truth,” said Smith, as Dunn peered on from a few feet back. “He’s one of the best players we have and he can step up and hit someone in the mouth for us.”
Dunn, a stalwart at nose guard last season, is moving to defensive end. Returning senior ends Kyle Rutherford and Landon Hope are expected to rotate in, while 6-foot-4, 290-pound Todd Garner is expected to start as nose guard in Dunn’s place.
Adam Hood, Taylor York, Jeff Anderson and Aaron Vaughan are also competing for playing time, Davis said, in what should be an extremely deep front three.
“We’re going to rotate kids into the defensive line quite a bit, so we have to have good depth there,” Davis said. “We’ll play at least two kids a position in a game, sometimes three. We like to keep them fresh.”
Two new outside linebackers, Shane Birchfield and converted safety Cade Davis, should provide the kind of movement needed on the edges to contain runs up the middle.
Brad Davis called the pair “hybrid” players who can play with enough speed to contain the pass but also the aggressiveness needed inside.
Dunn said he also has added some speed to his game during the offseason, prompting his switch to the end.
The switch for Dunn should be beneficial for the team, the senior said, and he expects the same out of the interior line as when he was the stalwart.
“We’re going to be petty good this year because we have lot of big people up front because we have Stephen and Jonathan in the middle. We’re going to be pretty well set up there.”
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