Putting the ‘D’ in Demopolis

Published 7:05 pm Thursday, September 18, 2008

Demopolis’ success tonight and throughout the remainder of the season will undoubtedly hinge a great deal upon the play of its defensive unit. That responsibility is one that Tiger defenders seem to have taken to heart.

“It means every play, every down, everybody to the ball,” junior defensive end Martaze Jackson said. “All 11.”

The unit, long expected to anchor the Tiger team, has reportedly continued to improve under new defensive coordinator Rudy Griffin.

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“I think our defense since we’ve been here has been good,” second year head coach Tom Causey said of the group before commenting on Griffin’s impact. “Coach Griffin has done a good job with them.”

“Early, they jumped right in and responded well,” Griffin said of his defensive players. “Each week they’ve gotten better and better at their assignments.”

The unit’s success is predicated on an intense defensive line that Griffin says has come to understand its role.

“I’ve really seen them grow, especially as a unit and understanding where they fit in the defense,” Griffin said of the front four.

Jackson echoed Griffin’s suggestion, suggesting that the line’s development is based largely upon its ever-improving relationship.

“We’ve grown more as a family,” Jackson said of the defensive linemen.

Still, as good as the group has been, Causey is adamant that continued improvement and attention to detail remain integral to prolonged success.

“We’re good up front. That’s for sure,” Causey said. “But if we don’t maintain technique, we’re not very good, even if their intensity is good.”

The defensive front draws support from a linebacking corps that offers a great deal more depth than Demopolis coaches once anticipated.

“We got guys that are workhorse guys, that are blue collar guys, that come to work everyday,” Causey said of the linebackers.

The line support unit has received considerable contributions from a players like Willie Wallace and Larry Dunn in addition to usual suspects Greg Irvin and Jacob Kerby.

“It’s great, especially with a couple of us going two ways,” Kerby said of the big-time contributions of Wallace and Dunn. “It’s helped out a lot keeping everybody rested.”

“Coach Griffin came in and really pushed us to another level,” Dunn said.

The junior is in his first year with the team and credited Griffin with his early production.

“I guess what really helped me is I knew I was a first-year player and I had to push myself if I wanted to play,” Dunn said before handing the Griffin the responsibility of his early development.

Another newcomer, sophomore corner Rusty Palmer, has also injected the defense with a significant boost.

“It’s been a bright spot, especially with Palmer moving in and helping us out at a corner that was a big question mark,” Griffin said.

“It didn’t take long,” Palmer said of his adjustment to the team’s scheme following his late-summer transfer to Demopolis after his family relocated from Arkansas. “I got in here and it took me a few days to catch on to the formations.”

“He comes to practice everyday. He’s banged up and has been banged up everyday and he doesn’t make excuses,” Causey said of his newest defensive back. “Rusty’s a winner.”

“It meant a lot to me. I was glad I was starting I knew (Demopolis) needed help in secondary, so I was glad I could help out there,” Palmer said before commenting on his trademark intensity that often seems to help fire up teammates. “I just go full speed and am looking to knock somebody’s head off every play honestly.”

Still, Causey is quick to point out that the secondary is not quite up to speed with where the Demopolis coaching staff would like it to be.

“It’s a work in progress,” Causey said of his defensive backfield. “We’re not where we need to be right now. Coach (Ben) Ramer and coach (Leroy) Harris do a great job back there. I truly believe at the end of the year that they’re going to be right where they need to be.”

Demopolis faced a true passing attack for the first time last week in Fayette, falling prey to multiple big plays that helped lead to the loss.

“To be honest, it was more tackling than anything,” Griffin said of the secondary’s deficiencies during the contest.

“We went back to the fundamentals,” he said of the coaching staff’s focus in correcting the errors this week.

While the defense figures to face one of its most stern challenges tonight and its performance becomes increasingly crucial as the season progresses, Griffin said the task laid upon the coaching staff will become less about motivation.

“At the beginning of the year, us defensive coaches really put the challenge on them,” Griffin said. “As the year goes on, (the defensive players) step up and become more accountable and really put the challenge on themselves.”