If they miss a single tackle under the bright lights, sometimes the entire crowd knows that they gave up a big score.
Brownstown Central’s linebackers have played a crucial role in the team’s success this season under pressure.
Three seniors: Cameron Eggersman, Lance Goecker and Devin Stuckwisch have answered the call.
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“I think that, like most defenses, we funnel a lot of things to the linebackers,” Braves defensive coordinator Shane Fallis said. “I think part of it is that those three are seniors who know what they’re doing. Their reads are really good and they’re sure tacklers — they’re at the point where they should be making a lot of plays.”
Brownstown Central junior Gus Hogan also has seen some snaps at the position.
Of the team’s 241 total tackles, the three seniors have accounted for 54 of those stops.
Prior to the start of each play, the linebackers read through their assignments before coming off the snap.
“So far, I think we’re doing a good job working on our keys,” Stuckwisch said. “We are picking it up pretty well in practice. As linebackers, I like to think we choreograph the defense. If we mess up, you can see what happens with big plays. So far, I think we’ve done a good job containing all the offenses we’ve played so far.”
Last week, both Eggersman and Stuckwisch recorded interceptions. Stuckwisch has two picks on the season, and both he and Eggersman have a pair of sacks a piece.
Often times, the formation on the field doesn’t reveal three linebackers on the field.
“The way we play ours is a little bit different than other teams do, but we’re a 4-3 defense,” Fallis said. “A lot of times, depending on what we’re getting (from the opposing offense), our outside (line)backers will be up on the line of scrimmage.
It will look a lot like a 6-1 to someone who didn’t realize what we’re doing with it. We also two-gap our defensive line quite a bit which isn’t that common. We’re always starting even which is a little different.”
With Jacob Brewer and Justin Donnells both graduating in 2015, Goecker and Eggersman stepped into starting roles while Stuckwisch returned in 2016.
Undersized compared to some of the teams in the Mid-Southern Conference, the Braves realize they need to play with a high IQ to continue finding success.
None of the senior linebackers are taller than 5-11 or heavier than 195 pounds.
“Most importantly, we have to hit low and wrap-up,” Eggersman said of playing small. “If you don’t, you will get run over. Technique is the key to being small.”
Technique, matched with speed, also will pay dividends.
“We need to keep reading our keys,” Goecker said. “We want to keep the ball away from them with our tackles. We just need to do our job and help out the defensive line.”
Eggersman, who moved to middle linebacker from defensive end, has been one of the biggest surprises for the Braves’ unit.
This season, Eggersman leads the team with 26 total tackles (19 assists).
“(Eggersman) has taken right to it,” Fallis said. “That was a big debate in the off season: where is the best place to put him? He was one of our better defensive linemen. We felt like he had the mentality for it and some of the physical tools. He has the leadership and really exceeded expectations — which we are really happy about.”
The linebackers have taken pride in their grit and will continue to play with a chip on their shoulders the rest of the season.
“They’re worked very hard,” Fallis said. “They’re very aggressive and play hard-nosed football. They’re outstanding kids and players.”