Panthers ‘big boy’ looms large in defensive strategy

08/29/2014 1:58 PM

08/29/2014 1:59 PM

Colleyville Heritage’s defense may have all the intentions of looking like a 3-4 out on the football field. But senior defensive tackle Jason Williams knows better.

The way the Panthers defensive coaching staff has him running all over the field, Williams might think that he’s in a track meet. It may not sound like a lot of fun when a 6-2, 315-pound defensive tackle is trying to chase down an elusive running back or quarterback. But the ability to handle this skill will not only benefit the Panthers defense but potentially Williams’ future.

“You definitely have to be ready to play different fronts, and you better be in shape because of the way we slant,” Williams said. “You’re running sideline to sideline. It’s important that we as defensive linemen play fast. That’s definitely been a chance for me.”

The Panthers opened the season last Friday at Abilene, after the early holiday press deadline, and renew their intra-district rivalry with Grapevine at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mustang-Panther Stadium. Colleyville Heritage has won the last four meetings.

With former coach Mike Fuller’s 3-4 system, Williams played strictly nose guard. He did what most nose guards do: hold up the gaps to funnel everything through to the linebackers so they can make plays.

Darren Allman’s flexible fronts incorporate more four-man fronts. So that means the tackles better get out and run the perimeter. When the staff hurriedly fed the defense all of the looks, calls and angles in May, it became a bit overwhelming. But in time, the players started to pick up on it. It’s taken a lot of repetitive work for it to happen.

As the staff started watching Williams, it didn’t take long to notice how light he was on his feet. He took pretty solid pursuit angles and kept up with the play. In the Aug. 22 scrimmage with Arlington Lamar, Williams held his own chasing down heralded Lamar quarterback Shane Buechele. He was the first one who tackled Buechele on a broken play that ended up on the Lamar sideline. Now, the goal is for Williams to do this for 12-15 consecutive plays instead of half of that. Allman would like to see Williams playing at around 295 before the end of the season.

“It’s a different type of conditioning,” Allman said. “When he gets to that point [12-15 consecutive plays], and he’s getting pretty close, the more you can see he can be dominant. He has a lot of work to do and growing to do. But he’s going to get better.”

Williams’ natural strength can allow this team to also operate in the 3-4 if need be. He can still control the two gaps to where someone off the edge can come free. Allman said the defensive staff is going to push Williams to use those “light” feet to push the gaps so he can cancel out those gaps.

Should the non-district season come together the way this team and Allman hopes, there’s going to be more than a FCS offer from Central Arkansas and mild Division I interest from the University of Houston.

Film will be cut and sent to anyone still needing a defensive tackle. It may not be a power five conference team. But some interest from non-power five conference teams could develop. Time will tell.

“Being a big boy, I have to prove myself,” Williams said. “It’s within me to prove I can run sideline to sideline and play consistently. That’s why I’m working on by getting in better condition. I’m killing myself to play well in the games and play four quarters.”

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