Cajun Defense Ready To Man Up And Lock Down
Melvin Smith wants the Ragin' Cajun defense to man up this year, and they're embracing their new coordinator's attitude.
When you talk to the players, they lead on that Smith isn't one to entertain nonsense; and players take on the personality of their coach. Some coaches succeed with honey, and others keep a bottle of vinegar in the hip holster.
"I'm not a cheerleader," Smith said.
After letting Cajun Nation know how the ship will sail under his supervision, he laid down his game plan in an unusually honest way. Instead of setting a smokescreen, Smith admitted he wants to play man coverage. It's a shift in the culture of the defense, but it's also a shift fans have been grumbling about for a while. The only opinion that matters belongs to the players.
Sophomore Defensive Back Simeon Thomas bought in. He might be young, but he understands the game.
"It’s better. It’s faster. It’s smarter. It’s simple," Thomas said. "It gives you a chance to expose somebody to the world when you play man coverage. When you get to the NFL, that’s what they’re paying you to do, to lock down somebody, to lock down a certain side of the field."
Hybrid defensive back/linebacker TJ Worthy noted that while the team isn't used to playing man coverage, a lot of the personnel is built for it.
Smith understands that reshaping the entire landscape of the offense is going to take time. He's following a simple formula you might be familiar with: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Toss the "Stupid" portion though. Sometimes less is more.
"We're not going to be real complicated, we're going to be fast," Smith said. "Our defense is going to be smart and physical."
The approach is working so far. Smith's linebackers are feeding off the system as well. With men locked down, players like Darzil Washington and new addition Otha Peters are set up to wreak havoc.
"They just opened up doors for a lot of guys," Washington said, "He understands our skill set better than I’ve ever been coached."
The table will be set for Washington to harass passer offs the edge, if the DB's can hold their side of the bargain. If the bargain holds, Peters could also become a menace at the inside linebacker position.
Peters has SEC talent. That's quite a chess piece to move around the board, if provided the space and framework.
“Coach Smith lets us fly around to the ball, let’s us be [in] man [coverage],” Peters said. “Since he’s given us all that responsibility and all that trust, we should go out there and execute for him.”
The final piece of the puzzle is a defensive back who only spent one year on campus, and it's not Simeon Thomas. It's his brother in the secondary, Tracy Walker.
Smith's scheme will heavily rely on the two sophomore's production and adjustment to man coverage. Thomas is ready to man up, and he thinks his brother is going to be the man who can pick up the pieces in a mad scramble.
“We came in together,” Thomas said. “If we don’t get the call, he’ll probably come up with a call that will work out.”
There's a ton of question marks on the defensive side of the ball. The approach appears to be a seismic shift in the defensive backfield, but the players are buying in to the simple transition. It helps that Smith loves DB's with size, and he reminded fans that last time he coached a player of Thomas' stature, he won the Thorpe Award.
Modern football is built on the passing game. If you can't stop the quarterback to receiver connection, it's going to be a long Saturday.
Smith stated that his team will stop the run, even if they need to put all 11 men in the box. That means it's up to the secondary to man up, point blank.