The John Tyler coaching staff stays consistent, and up front, when talking about the strength of the defense.
The early honor goes to the unit up front, where all three returning starters for the stop unit play.
Eric Davis, a senior who moved inside to tackle, earned all-state honors last year. Tydarious Johnson, a senior end, made all-district last year while junior end Tyus Bowser garnered district newcomer of the year accolades. The trio teamed up for 23 sacks last year, and dropped the quarterback three times for losses in last week’s 34-31 setback to Lufkin.
“All the experience came back on the d-line,” said JT defensive ends coach James Croley. “They have to hold their own and give us a chance so those young kids can grow up.”
The defensive front features Johnson at the bandit position, Davis inside at the three-shade, junior DeAndre Miller at the nose and Bowser on the opposite end. Backups include Necolas Edwards (junior bandit), Ernest Jackson (senior tackle), Chris Pringle (junior nose) and KaVante Jefferson (junior end).
“We bring a little experience,” said Johnson, who factored into two sacks last week. “Our backups, when we’re not in they get a lot of reps. We all can do the same thing.”
The Lions needed nearly everyone in uniform last week while battling dehydration, depth and injuries. When fresh, JT controlled the first and third quarters (28-13).
With conditioning a prime concern, JT sprinted repeatedly, sometimes the length of the field, and other times dashed 40 yards at the conclusion of practices this week.
“We’ve been running gassers after practice, 30-minute longs across the field, up and down the field getting ready for Saturday,” Jefferson said. “I believe we’re going to be ready.”
Multiple players prepared to go both ways against Longview, with several wearing combination blue-white jerseys in practice denoting their dual assignments.
“We’re going to need everyone ready; we don’t know if somebody’s going down or not,” said Davis, who committed last year to Texas A&M after a 12-sack season. “That’s why we all take reps in practice. Depth’s really not an issue because everyone knows what to do.”
The Lions faced one of the area’s top individual rushers last week in Jamarcus Walker, who finished with 189 yards and four TDs. They expect another tough challenge Saturday against Longview in the finale of the Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic.
In a new era dominated by spread offenses featuring one back, Longview likes to still play smash-mouth, preferring to still use a fullback and tight end.
“They line up in tight splits and they run right at you and hit you in the mouth” said JT defensive tackles coach Chris Dungan. “They stay low and are very physical. In order for us to be successful we have to be physical as well.”
The Lions limited the Lobos and their physical attack to 86 rushing yards in the previous meeting as JT ended Longview’s seven-year home winning streak, kicking off a run of 12 consecutive wins. The Lions now aim to end a 12-year drought of beating the Lobos in Tyler.
“Longview’s a tough team,” Bowser said. “We beat them last year at their house and they were pretty upset about that. This year they’re coming after us. We’ve got the huge target on our back. We just have to stay ready.”
LIONS’ TALES: JT’s injury list expanded, with RB Reggie Gipson (knee, questionable) and CB Terrance Stevens (shin, three weeks) going down late against Lufkin and joining sophomore LB Jorean Jackson and senior LB Keundas Sanford, who are both expected to miss a second straight game. DeQuante Woods, a starter last week at LB, replaces Gipson on offense. DeVonte Jones takes Woods spot at LB, with WR Darion Flowers slated to go both ways while replacing Stevens.