“Great defense is expected around here.” With this statement, Crusader football Head Coach Pete Fredenburg sets the tone for the 11 men defending every inch between their opponents and their own end zone.
With five sophomores, an equal number of seniors and only one junior keeping either class from taking over this lineup, much is expected from the class of 2014.
Leading the young players is Silvio Diaz, who, as a freshman last year, recorded 52 total tackles and 9.5 sacks throughout the season at defensive end. Coaches are hoping for more by moving him inside to defensive tackle.
Leading the entire team, however, is middle linebacker and sport management major Javicz Jones. With more than 200 career tackles, 120 of which came last year along with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble, he is unquestionably the statistical leader of these guards of the gridiron. Jones was named Co-Defense ASC football player of the week for Sept. 17.
Statistics are not the only thing that makes Jones a leader; Fredenburg said he has an “incredible work ethic that is contagious to those around him. That is what has made him an established player.”
Jones, while an outstanding player, can’t be the only leader on defense. Coaches are looking for other players to step up. Players like Chris Brent on the d-line, free safety Rocky Vaclavick, or the only senior returning starter for next year, Bronson Shaw, need to fill these roles alongside Jones.
In the season-opener against the Wisconsin-La Crosse Eagles, the offense put pressure on the defense by throwing four interceptions.
The first one came at the end of the first quarter, which started a drive that allowed a score for the Eagles.
They came knocking at their door again just five minutes later, when the defense pulled together in a goal-line stand on a fourth and one, just three yards short of another touchdown.
The defense would prevail in another critical situation in the third quarter and would end the game with a Shaw interception to run out the remaining 32 seconds. The score: Wisconsin La Crosse 20, Mary Hardin-Baylor 27.
In a post-game interview, Jones expressed pride in his peers but did dish out some criticism commenting that “(We) need to be a team that can play all four quarters not just two,” referring to the first and third quarters when the defense allowed the Eagles to take the lead.
In a preseason press conference, Fredenburg said, “Teams improve most between their first and second game.”
Defensive Coordinator Larry Harman identified these severl improvements as, “alignment, assignments and communication.”
His defense needs to align themselves to make plays, take care of their assignments on the field and communicate to unify both sides of the defense.
Though the UMHB defense did a great job against La Crosse, Harman said this isn’t the standard. He expects a better defense.
“The question isn’t if we’ll be a good defense, it’s when we’ll be a good defense.” They’re looking to answer that question in future games.