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DHS’ revamped defense: Devils make switch to a 3-4 base

By August 31, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

Newspaper scribes are fond of looking at a previous football season and extrapolating from that performance what might lie ahead in the next campaign.

With the 2010 edition of the Davis High Blue Devils, forget everything that came before Ñ even if there are a number of similar cast members, and so-called experts arenÕt providing any kind of respect (thanks to DHS carding back-to-back 2-8 records).

MaxPreps of California, a high school stat and ranking service, says the Blue Devils are the 65th-best outfit in the Sac-Joaquin Section. ESPN Rise tells fans that Davis isnÕt even on radar in the state and the Elk Grove Citizen believes the locals are 3-7 and 0-5 in Delta Valley Conference.

Out-of-towners arenÕt paying attention to the local Davis newspaper Ñ and defensive coordinator Tom WattsÕ new approach.

Gone is a 4-3 defensive alignment that proved weak in the middle. Despite slight roster numbers (38), a healthy Devil team will show some girth up front Ñ something it didnÕt have a year ago.

ThereÕs a new coach Ñ Steve Smyte Ñ whose energy, understanding of the game and connection with his players has paid dividends even before the first official snap on Friday.

In short, these Devils donÕt intend to part like the Red Sea. They expect to make life miserable on opposing quarterbacks. And Davis will hope that injuries are few, because coaches expect to use their most talented players on both sides of the ball Ñ and a lot.

ÒWe are moving to a 3-4 to take advantage of a tough group of D-linemen and an active group of linebackers,Ó Watts, a former UC Davis safety in his third year with the Devils, says. ÒWe are also moving to a much more aggressive zone-blitz scheme that should keep offenses on their toes and involve our (defensive backs) in the run game.Ó

Coughing up 326 points was no fun for an undersized defense that was on its heels much of 2009.

But there was an excuse, kinda. The Devils had no size and were easily pushed around.

No more the case. Davis has some large young men holding the line this fall.

ÒHonestly, IÕm not going to name probable starters until game one, but there are a lot of guys in the mix,Ó Smyte says about his guys in the trenches.

At nose tackle, Jacob Schroeder (6-1, 290) has been a load in scrimmages with veteran Devils Derrick Coronado (5-11, 205) and Bobby Rico (5-10, 250) showing why theyÕre two-year starters. Coronado and Rico are the new defensive ends in WattsÕ 3-4. Chase Hunt-Murray, originally penciled in a linebacker, has also been making a huge splash at defensive end. ThatÕs great news for Davis as his emergence takes some of the heat off 24/7 two-way efforts by Rico and Coronado.

Where Davis is completely new look comes in the back seven.

Inside linebackers Ñ known as Will and Mike in the playing jargon Ñ will be Peter Smith (6-2, 220) and Corey Nelson (6-2,190). Smyte says Brent Martin and Dylan Malloy will see action inside, too. With Will Glaeser, David Coronado, Austin Day, Christian Zuercher and Jimmy Yo all in the mix at OLB, Davis has some depth again.

But itÕs in the back where the Devils might have one of the areaÕs best mixes of athletes.

All-everything running back Courtney Williams will be asked to double up as the teamÕs free safety while junior Nick Jenness, according to Watts, is developing into a pretty good strong safety.

Kevin Concolino, a linebacker in Ô09, should eventually start in the secondary Ñ as soon as his blisters heal.

Another senior, Majed Eddin, should be at left corner with Mike Romero currently the DHS right corner. Again, a Devil luxury is depth Ñ Zuercher, Kristian Mackewicz, Day, David Coronado and Marcus Charles are battling for roles, but in some cases, players are battling preseason injuries.

ÒWe think this (3-4) scheme fits our personnel very well, and the hope (is) that is will keep opposing QBs both guessing and running,Ó Watts says, smiling, addingÉ

Ò(Reasoning behind the switch) came from my desire to make us a more aggressive defense and give our players something to be excited about. So far I think they are having fun with it.Ó

Notes: The first challenge comes Friday when DHS kicks off against Armijo at Pioneer (7:15 p.m.). While the Indians were only 2-8 last season, they did average 21 points a game and have a talent senior QB in Brian Wilson. É OL Darion Morris is gone with a serious knee injury. OL/DL Blair Kittle Ñ who went down with an ACL tear last fall versus Wood Ñ has been cleared to play in the opener. É Given the new defense, donÕt expect Davis to allow anywhere near the 326 points given up last season.

Bruce Gallaudet

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