Incognito: Wildcat defense will be better at disguising its intentions this year

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 9, 2007 - Steve Hale recognizes the Wildcat defenders, but he hopes other teams won't.

The Wildcats will use more disguises and deceptions than they were able to last year in trying to shut down the opposition's offense. Hale, the SSHS defensive coordinator, said the Wildcats have gotten more "football savvy" in the past year, which will enable them to make last-second adjustments.

"Our No. 1 goal is we want to stop the run. Then, we want to be great on third down," Hale explained. "Last year, we had a lot of times when we should have gotten off the field on third down, but we weren't a very good third-down defense.

"The key is disguising. We spend a lot of time lining up in different fronts and different coverages, then we're moving. We're disguising."

Many offenses these days use the spread and no-huddle formations, so the offensive coordinator sends in the play, then the quarterback checks the call. A last-second adjustment by the defense makes the quarterback either adjust his call or run a play into the teeth of the defense.

"I want a 16-year-old kid to make the call, not a man with a college degree on the other sideline making the call," Hale said. "If they line up in no-huddle and we line up and show our hand, the offensive coordinator has made the call. Then, we yell one certain thing and we move, then we change everything that play was based on. That's the difference on third down."

To be able to do that, the defense has to be well-educated on what they're doing and they have to talk to each other so that everyone's on the same page.

"If we're going to be multiple in disguising, it all starts with communication," Hale said. "The more comfortable the kids are in what they're doing, the move they'll talk. These kids are a lot more football savvy than they were last year."

The Wildcats will base their defense out of the 4-3 look with four down linemen and three linebackers. That plays into their strength since four of the players - linemen Rodney Evans and Tyler Francis and linebackers Josh Dunn and Brittan Diamond - were All-District last year.

But, Hale explained that what the Wildcats are doing scheme-wise this year isn't really different than in 2006, when they used four down linemen against two-back offenses. Because of greater depth and speed, though, they will be able to use different personnel packages.

"For the kids, it hasn't really changed a thing," The schemes and all the different things we do are the same - we just use different packages.

"I feel like we have a great defensive front and a lot of quickness at linebacker. I think we've bettered ourself this year with speed and depth. Their energy has been great. I've had the best week of practice than I've had in my coaching career. I've enjoyed coming out here because they're excited."

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