With a new look and schematics this season, Seymour’s defensive line has found success on the defensive line.
This season, the Owls have changed from a 4-2-5 to a 3-4 defense — with three lineman instead of four at the forefront of the trench.
With less players on the line, the Owls have put stock in starters Dalton Miller, Nick Richert and Austin Alcorn while giving significant playing time to John Barrett, and rotating-in Alex Hofer and Shawn Battice, among other stalwarts.
Owls defensive line coach Cody French noted the attention to detail and intangibles he’s seeing with the unit.
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“The four guys that are mainly in our rotation, their technique has been really good,” French said. “It is getting better each week. It’s something that we focus on the most — hand placement, pad level, extension off the offensive linemen. I think that it might have gotten to a point where they’re so sick of hearing it from me that they’re starting to do it.”
Often lacking in size against the opposition, technique has been the key to success.
“The technique and attitude up front in the box has been a big deal,” Owls defensive coordinator Ryan McCartney said. “I would consider that one of the biggest bonuses for us. It has been great to see. We’re often undersized — I don’t know that we have three guys over 215 pounds. Against Jeffersonville we faced guys over 6-5 and heavier than that. Last week we played Columbus East who has four offensive linemen with (NCAA) Division I offers.”
McCartney said that the D-line has also relied on their IQ to get the job done in game.
“Typically, at a high school level, you’re putting yourself in trouble sometimes (with the 3-4),” McCartney said. “If I tell them to go the wrong way, it’s easier to block. They’re running a 2-gap scheme this year — which is more of a college scheme defensively.
“It allows our linebackers to play a little more and commands double teams. It’s a game of numbers: if you have to double-team our three guys, you don’t have enough to get our linebackers.”
Richert has 28 tackles (27 solo) to lead the line, and linebacker Todd Kieweitt has the most for Seymour with a team-high 37.
“Last year we were all about slanting into gaps and now we’re taking a bigger role,” Richert said. “We’re 2-gapping instead of 1-gap assigned to us. The general responsibilities have gotten bigger. I embrace the challenge. You know if you did something wrong.”
French said that multiple players have stepped up this season three games in.
“Nick Richert has always been a phenomenal leader,” French said. “Austin Alcorn was a kid that I was planning on getting into the rotation, and now he’s a kid that is now hard for me to get off the field. Dalton Miller is doing a great job, too. Alex Hofer, I can send him with some of the younger guys and he will teach him the things that we want. There has been good leadership across the board.”
For Alcorn, there’s still improvements to be made as the season progresses.
“We need to keep hitting the weight room and improving,” Alcrorn said. “The linebackers are playing well. They’re hitting the gaps the D-line can’t get to.”
While the defensive line has improved, McCartney knows it still needs improvement if a sectional championship is in the works.
“We need to stay focused,” McCartney said. “It’s good to have success, but we’re still 0-3. It hasn’t translated to wins. Defensively, we haven’t forced any takeaway and last year we led the state in takeaways. But, we also didn’t force a punt until week five last year. Even Columbus East had to punt twice.
“One of our goals is takeaways, and the next is three-and-outs. I think, up front, part of that is getting a solid pass rush and more hits on the quarterback. Both of our quarterback pressures comes from the outside. Moving forward, that needs to be more of a focus on the D-line.”