The changes seen so far this spring by the Georgia Southern defense haven’t all been on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
In fact, it’s a whole new ballgame for the defense, too — especially the front four.
Making the switch from the three-man front installed in 2008, the Eagles have gone back to gap-assignment with four down linemen.
First-year GSU defensive coordinator Brent Pry has seen it all, from a grad assistantship at Virginia Tech, to Western Carolina, to Louisiana-Lafayette as the defensive coordinator to defensive line coach at Memphis, coaching every position on the field at one time or another. He’s going to stick with what’s worked.
“The big thing for me, and this goes back to cutting my teeth at Virginia Tech really, is that single-gap defense, and these kids weren’t being coached that for the last couple of years,” said Pry, who is also in charge of coaching the safeties. “When you’re playing out of that odd front, things are different. … Everybody on the (current) front is responsible for a gap, and when we’re out of a gap that’s when bad things happen. That’s probably the biggest thing for the front seven, is being gapped up and leveraging your gap.”
Behind the line are two conventional linebackers — a middle linebacker position currently being manned by Dion DuBose and a weak-side linebacker position led currently by Josh Rowe.
There is also a bandit, which is a hybrid between a safety and a linebacker. Two safeties and two cornerbacks round out the look.
Pry is evaluating the talent on the roster to find out who goes where. He hopes to have a depth chart in mind after Saturday’s 11-on-11 drills, the second such session.
“I think there’s a solid group talent-wise,” he said, “and when you couple it with the signing class that we had, there’ll be enough potential out there that we can field a decent unit I believe.”
Rather than implementing a large playbook during the spring, Pry and the defensive staff have focused on fundamentals, relying on only four calls throughout the first week of practice.
One step at a time.
“We’re going to try and minimize what we do,” said Pry. “It’s the old adage that it’s not what we know as coaches, it’s what they know. We’re taking baby steps. We only had four calls in for the first scrimmage, and that was it. We had four days and we managed to get four calls. We didn’t want to move forward without feeling good about things.”
While a portion of each practice has been dedicated to lining up against shotgun-spread looks, dual-back looks and some of the other familiar offenses seen around the Southern Conference, a majority of the time has been spent facing off against the newly-reinstalled, triple-option attack.
To Pry, that can only help the Eagles in the long run, regardless of who they’re playing.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s a great challenge for our defense, it’s a great challenge for our staff — we’re not going to find an offense running the ball better than our offense. They are committed to running the ball, and that’s forcing us to be very good from inside out defending the run. We’ve got to defend the dive, the traps, the quarterback follows, we’ve got to be good on the corner playing cut blocks and low blocks and being able to play perimeter runs.
“When you start looking at these zone-read teams, yeah, there’s some differences, but there’s also a lot of similarities. It’s not as foreign as you’d think.”
Practice at Beautiful Eagle Creek resumes today at 3:45 p.m. and Saturday’s 11-on-11 drills will begin at 9 a.m.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.