‘They’re smart. They pick up things really, really quickly…I think we have a drive that is really, really good..’
LHS defensive coordinator, on the strengths of his players
Defensive Coordinator Sam Waldrip has high expectations for his first season with the Badgers.
Waldrip said there will be 16 blitz combinations in his aggressive defense, which will base out of a 3-4 alignment.
The coordinator's goals include forcing four turnovers per game, holding opponents to fewer than four yards per rush and allowing no more than 10 yards per pass. He also aims for 60 percent of opponents’ offensive series to end without a touchdown.
Key returners include senior middle linebacker Landon Irvin, who had 105 tackles last fall.
“He’s definitely going to be a leader for us in that position,” Waldrip said of Irvin – the 2017 Battlin’ Badger.
In the secondary, Dylan Kannan and Koby Allen are returning lettermen.
“Cameron Everts is also going to play a role at safety,” Waldrip said.
Everts, an inside receiver, is one of the few defensive players whom coaches expect to start both ways. Starting spots are up for grabs through the end of August, when the regular season begins.
Waldrip believes Everts is “in great shape” for playing both ways.
“Right now he’s getting a ton of reps in practice, which will help prepare for the season,” the coach said.
Outside linebackers Asiel Gary and Giovani Bienbenu are first-year varsity players whose speed and athletic ability will be important for blitz packages, run stopping and pass coverage. On the defensive line, Ethan Rascoe, Cody Osburn, Owen Seaver and Nathan Calvery are contending for starting roles. David Denis played half of last year as linebacker, a position he is likely to return to this year.
Last year, opponents averaged more than 46 points per game against Lampasas. This year, some of the same strong offenses will return to the schedule.
Waldrip expects Liberty Hill to be Lampasas’ toughest opposing offense in the regular season. The Panthers rushed for more than 5,000 yards – nearly three miles – in their 10-3 season last year.
The Panthers run a Slot-T, like Canyon Lake also has used in the past. Canyon Lake and Fredericksburg – a multiple spread offense – also have some of the stronger prospects on the Badgers’ schedule.
“To me, the spread is easier [to defend],” Waldrip said, after facing that offense often last year in South Garland. “But it also has a lot of challenges, as well. Especially if you have to determine whether the quarterback, is he a passer, is he a runner, is he going to do both? It dictates how we’re going to defend a lot of things.
“The Slot-T and offenses like that, you don’t see very often,” Waldrip added. “So, making sure you get aligned properly is critical.”
The first day of fullcontact drills allowed by the UIL is Saturday. The Badgers’ intrasquad scrimmage this weekend, and the next three weeks of practice, will be big factors in determining starting roles.
“Everyone looks like an All-American when they’re wearing shorts, shirts and a helmet,” Waldrip said. “When you get the pads on, it really separates the cream of the crop from the others.”
In the first two days of practice Monday and Tuesday, Waldrip and his assistants installed three secondary coverages and a couple of defensive line movements.
Waldrip mentioned several factors as the top strengths of his defensive players.
“They’re smart,” he said. “They pick up things really, really quickly…I think we have a drive that is really, really good. The fact that we’re in great shape is going to do well for us.”