A lot of eyes will be on the defense of the Tyler Lee Red Raiders this season.

The Red Raiders, who have eight starters back on defense, hit the field at 6:30 a.m. Monday for the first practice of the 2019 football season.

While the defense is hard to judge until Friday when they can begin the football essential of tackling, the coaching staff and players felt good about the start.

“We had a great spring, so we wanted to carry that momentum into fall camp,” Lee co-defensive coordinator JJ Berry said. “I felt like our kids came out with great energy. When you play defense, it’s about emotion and passion, and that’s the way you’ve got to play. I’m excited about it moving forward. Our plan is to play fast and physical.”

“We’re older this year with a lot more returners,” senior defensive back Elliott Davison said. “People know what they’re doing, and we have a good coaching staff to put us where we need to be.”

Davison is one of the senior leaders for the Red Raiders, and head coach Kurt Traylor was very complimentary of the way Davison and other seniors have performed during the offseason.

“Jamal Ligon, Noah Springer, Dion (Daniels), Elliott Davison and Mark Patton, those guys showed up all summer and led the team,” Traylor said. “The other guys need to see that and see how you work every day to build a foundation.”

The Red Raiders used Monday morning to build on that foundation with a variety of drills.

“Like every other first day, a lot of it is getting back into the rhythm of practice,” Traylor said. “You have to reteach a little bit, so that’s some of what we were doing today. And we were preaching ball security and effort. Those are the two non-negotiables.”

“Overall, it was a good first day,” Ligon said. “Of course we still have things we need to sharpen up, but that’s any team. We’ll get it right by the time the season starts.”

“It felt good to be back out here,” Springer said. “It’s great to be around everybody after all of the work we put in during the offseason leading up to this.”

On offense, the Red Raiders want to play fast this season, and that will start with the quarterback. Patton is the returning starter after throwing for 1,083 yards last season, and Trent Adams is also receiving plenty of reps in practice.

The Red Raiders are also looking to fill some holes on the offensive line as Daniels is the lone returning starter.

Lee will host Pine Tree for a scrimmage Aug. 23 before opening the regular season Aug. 30 at Marshall.

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