The summer was good for the Red Wolves Defense according to Coach Early. He said that until the pads stay on they won’t really know what they have though. After having double digit sacks in this past weekends scrimmage, I’d say say he’s going to be pretty happy with it.
The defense in the past went off of a 3 color system to call out which defense should go onto the field. As of now, Early says they had to add an extra color because the are so deep. He says that they will now be 4 deep and have 4 units rotating in there. The back 8 players will have a bunch of newcomers, but looking back in the spring, Early said that they had 5 injured guys that were just in the room and not playing. They also added 5 new guys so that’s 10 that didn’t even play in the spring that are added to those who did.
Early says he likes to feel that that his defensive line unit dictates how the defense does. He says that if you aren’t strong in the trenches the season won’t go well for you. He likes the pressure that comes with that.
Early said that he feels like he repeats himself a lot about saying the same that as previous years about liking the teams depth and liking the talent and being better than before, but this year he not only likes the depth, but he says he really likes the quality of depth. He’s excited about finding out who they can redshirt and who rosters and who doesn’t.
One of the new guys that has caught the idea of Coach Early is Ryan Taylor. Taylor played at Grayson High and won multiple state titles and played a high level of competition. Coach Early was impressed with how mature and serious he is. Early says that he’s a violent player and plays angry. Early was also excited about Terry Hampton. Those were the two high school players that Early has available to him. He said that Hampton was an instate guy that played at El Dorado. He was an often injured player in high school and he would have been a lot more heavily recruited by P5 schools if it wasn’t for his injuries. He’s a prototypical 3 tech according to Early. Early didn’t take any high school defensive ends this cycle, but said the 3 JUCO guys will fill in and provide great quality across the line.
Arkansas State picked up replacements for starting defensive ends Javon Jones and Caleb Caston by going the JUCO route for 3 guys. Mario Brown, Juice, and Forrest Merrill. Brown is a 3 for 3 kind of guy that came from the same school as Bingham. He went from 211 to 232 pounds. He gained a solid 21 pounds and Juice reported to Arkansas State at 226 and is up to 246 of quality muscle. Merrill is a 3 for 3 guy that Arkansas State was also fortunate to get according to Early. People didn’t know he was a high school qualifier and could come out. He didn’t get advertised that way because his school didn’t want to let it be known so they could get him back, said Early. Only Arkansas State and Eastern Michigan had offered and after building a good relationship with him and waiting for a spot to open so they could get him, they were finally able to accept him and Early says he’s going to be really good for their d line. Merrill’s coach said that if he had come back this Fall then he would have been the MVP of that league. Early said that he’s one of the strongest guys in the country and would have beaten every guy in the bench press this year at the NFL combine and Arkansas State gets him for three more years. He’s squatting 520 3 times and is powerful and plays powerful, according to Early.
One player that Red Wolves have deployed this year was Thomas Toki who will likely not be eligible according to Early. They are still waiting on his transcript, but if he has to redshirt they will still have him for 3 years, but he will only be able to practice and can’t play.
On Saturdays, Early says they will most likely deploy 10-12 defensive linemen that will play every Saturday. They will send waves of at least 3 and possibly 4 deep at each spot.
Watch for the d line to continue to improve under the guidance of Brian Early.