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With more turnovers, DHS defense could be elite

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From page B1 | August 21, 2013 | 1 Comment

DHS defensive lineman Marvin Grant wraps up teammate Brendan MacDonald during a Tuesday practice at Brown Stadium. Grant and MacDonald are both key members of a Blue Devil defense that is expected to be strong in 2013. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series previewing the 2013 edition of the Davis High football team. Today, the focus is on the Blue Devil defense.

Fast. Physical. Smart.

These are the expectations of Davis High defensive coordinator Ty Brown and Blue Devil head coach Marc Hicks for the team’s defense in 2013.

Last season, DHS (5-5) allowed seven points or less in each of its five wins. And with many of the key players back from that unit, it’s Hicks’ hope that this year’s defense can be even better.

Despite holding opponents to low scoring numbers in those five games, the Devils forced just 14 turnovers last season (seven interceptions and seven recovered fumbles). Getting more takeaways in 2013 will be the key to making an already tough defense more formidable.

“With the amount of returners we have, I expect great things from the defense this year,” Brown said. “The key thing we will be looking at is turnovers. We want turnovers; turnovers are great.”

Getting a few more bounces to go its way also will help Davis improve. In the season finale with Elk Grove — a close 17-10 loss to the eventual Sac-Joaquin Section runners-up — the Blue Devils forced a whopping seven fumbles, but were able to recover only one.

Like most teams, the foundation of the 2013 DHS defense will lie in the trenches. Senior defensive end Marvin Grant returns and on the opposite side will be Georgia transfer Jonah Williams, who has impressed in camp. Senior Bailey Murray, an All-Delta Valley Conference first-teamer last season, joins junior Nash Nunes and senior Zac Slavich at defensive tackle.

The Devils are hoping the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Murray can recreate performances like his six-tackle outing in that late-season matchup with the Thundering Herd.

“Everything begins and ends with your line play,” said Brown, who coordinated the defense last year under head coach Steve Smyte and is now Hicks’ lead assistant. “Given who we have on the defensive line right now, we can do a lot more things on the back end with our linebackers and corners that we haven’t been able to do in the past.”

Behind that stout line is a group of linebackers that Brown has dubbed The Cartel. All-DVC first-teamer Brendan MacDonald will roam the middle and look to build on his stellar 2012 season during which he finished second on the team with 51 tackles. Senior Eli Castro (27 tackles last season) and junior Wally Perez (primarily a backup running back last year) will roam the outside edges of the field.

MacDonald certainly will be the center of attention for the opposing offense, but Brown believes that Perez and Castro give the Devils a terrific trio.

“The funny thing is that everyone will be talking about 45 (MacDonald); he’s the man in the middle. But I would take (Perez, Castro, and MacDonald) over any group of guys in the state right now,” Brown said. “I think these guys can play very, very well together.”

The secondary has suffered key losses due to graduation and injury, but Brown is confident DHS has the horses to compete without missing a beat. Gone are all-conference second-team cornerbacks Ahmari Hayes (graduation) and Quinn Williams (ACL tear), but senior Joey Dossa and junior Marquise Turner are ready to step in.

Brown says Turner is in the same mold as Hayes: tall, long and physical. With those tools, Turner could turn into a shutdown corner by season’s end.

On the other side of the field, Brown believes Dossa can “run with anybody in the league” and will be able to manage the fleet-footed receivers of the Blue Devils’ opponents.

At the safety positions, two former JV standouts have impressed Brown: juniors Nate Curtis and Bailey Yarrow. The two players have big shoes to fill as graduated safety Adam King led Davis in tackles last year with 57. Brown also expects senior Emilio Barba — who is competing for the starting quarterback job — to see some playing time at safety.

Though the players mentioned have performed well so far in camp, Brown said the lineup isn’t totally set. The Devils have a scrimmage on Saturday, then open the season on Aug. 30 at Yuba City.

“You know, I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’ve settled on starters yet,” Brown said. “Obviously, we have guys like (MacDonald, Castro and Grant) who have played here last year, but right now, the competition is still wide open.”

As for the system these Blue Devils will play in, Brown did not want to reveal too much.

“We’ll play a lot of stuff that we did last year,” Brown said. “Obviously, we’ve added a few wrinkles here and there, but we’ll primarily stay with our base package stuff.”

— Reach Thomas Oide at toide@davisenterprise.net

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