Prior to the start of this football season, Hurst L.D. Bell defensive coordinator Brady Bond and his defensive coaches stressed the importance of improved tackling.
Based on statistics, it appears his players listened.
“Last year we were a poor tackling team, and that’s probably our biggest difference this year,” Bond said. “We taught them basic fundamentals of tackling, and that those kids on the other side are working on some things too, and we’ve got to realize that.”
Through the first eight games, Blue Raider defenders were averaging 88.4 tackles per game (solo and assists), well above the national average. Of those, they have 54 tackles for loss this season, distributed among 14 players and led by senior ends Ricky Tatu with 15 and Keroles Dawed with 11.
They had also posted 20 sacks, again well above the national average, spread among 10 players. Dawed again leads with five, while seniors London Giles and Lazerrick Bowie have three sacks each.
“This validates what we’re doing in practice,” Bond said. “It tells me we’re playing up to our potential and shows the hard work is paying off.”
The defensive statistics have helped the Blue Raiders, coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, stand 3-5 entering this past weekend with two games left in the season.
Dawed said there is a technique to getting sacks, and it’s not simply being fast and strong — though that certainly helps.
“It’s something we work on in practice. You flip your hips, make yourself as small as you can,” he said.
In short, the player rushing the quarterback will turn himself sideways as fast as he can, using the blocker as leverage.
“It’s one of those drills you can practice on your own,” head coach Mike Glaze said. “It’s a footwork thing.”
Dawed said getting a sack accomplishes two things. It’s deflating to the opposing offense and inspires the defense.
“It really gets us pumped up for the next play,” he said.
Dawed said he can tell a big difference between last season and this one. “We’re just better tacklers,” he said.
Bond said the team set a goal to have five tackles behind the line of scrimmage each game. They are averaging over nine, starting with a dozen in a season-opening overtime loss to perennial power Coppell.
“That sparked the whole season,” he said.
Bond said work in the weight room has also contributed to the numbers. Several players, for example, have lifted over 500 and 600 pounds.
“They realize they’ve done this in the weight room, so if you’ve got a 300-pound guy leaning on you blocking, you can move him,” Bond said.
He also said the players use the weight room as a kind of game drill.
“The weight room is 45 minutes of nonstop action. Then, when they get in a game, they’re used to the up-tempo pace already,” he said. “We play on defense like our pants are on fire.”
Bond said the statistics posted this season by a defense largely filled with seniors is setting a standard for underclassmen to focus on next season and beyond.
“This group of seniors has set a bar for next season, and it’s good to have that,” he said. “These underclassmen see what they have to reach and surpass, and they will work hard to accomplish that.”