When Carroll begins the 2014 football season on Aug. 29 against Austin Westlake, Dragons fans may not see the big and bulky defensive fronts that they have been accustomed to seeing in previous seasons.
As Carroll moves into the final week of spring practices, eighth-year head coach Hal Wasson and his defensive staff are looking at least two new starters on the defensive line and two new starters at linebacker. When a potential starting defensive end – at least one in the rotation – is 5-11, 200 lbs., it shows times have changed.
“We’re not a big team, and we’re going to have to rely on the fundamentals of football,” Wasson said. “We’ve got some good players. And they are disciplined. That kind of thing goes together. For us, it’s a simple thing of building depth. Whether you’re at Southlake or anywhere else, kids tend to specialize. That affects your depth. So you have to really work at it during the spring.”
One of the more interesting stories of the spring camp is senior defensive end Grady Sullivan (5-11, 200). Originally considered a quarterback in the program, the coaching staff moved him to inside linebacker before settling on him at defensive end. The move seems to be paying off.
“I’m really excited about what he has done to this point,” Wasson said. “He’s a student of the game and is taking to what we are asking of him.”
Seniors King Newton and Joey Paulsen should also be a part of what the rest of the defensive line should look like.
At linebacker, senior Hunter Pensom should figure on the inside and senior Joel McCellan appears to be poised on the outside. Wasson will be relying those two to be the mainstays to a group that has to find some playmakers.
Back to the front
In 2013, a loaded defensive line needed to make up for the youth and inexperience of the secondary. In 2014, it’s the reverse.
A veteran and savvy secondary should be the strength of this defense. Junior Obi Eboh and senior Tariq Gordon are coming off pretty solid seasons. Expect senior Kevin Cramer, who has been with the baseball team for most of the spring, to make an impact.
“All of those guys are doing well,” Wasson said. “I’m really excited about our secondary. We’re not there yet with them or any of the positions for that matter. But I like the way we have progressed to this point.”
As for Gordon, Wasson continues to work him out on both sides of the ball and seems to be committed with him playing some receiver in 2014.
“He’s shown some good playmaking abilities,” Wasson said. “You have to have that.”
Led by juniors Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Grant McFarlin, Wasson calls this running back group the best and deepest he’s had in his time at Carroll … In case you’re wondering, junior Jake Oldryd is expected to be this team’s punter and place-kicker … Carroll will hold its spring game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Dragon Stadium.