Editor’s note: This is part of a series previewing the 2012 Bryant Hornets football team heading into their season-opening game at home against the rival Conway Wampus Cats on Friday, Aug. 31.
Photo by Kevin Nagle
By Rob Patrick
Sometimes sayings become cliché because they’re true. For instance, the old saw about[more] championships being won on defense.
The Bryant Hornets have won three conference championships in a row in the 7A/6A-Central. Now in the 7A/6A-South, the Hornets plan to earn a fourth. It would be the first time in the history of the program that has been done.
While the defense over the last three years has been pretty good at times, coaches feel the 2012 edition may be the best the team has fielded in a while.
“It’s a step up,” acknowledged defensive line coach Brad Stroud. “Technique-wise, effort-wise and just football savvy, football knowledge, this group will be better. We’ve had a good (fall) campaign. We’ve kind of been ahead of the offense some so far and we’re real excited about that. Of course, if the d-line is strong then that helps the linebackers and then, in turn, helps the secondary. So it starts with us.”
That optimism has been fueled by, among other things, the return of all-conference defensive end Tim Kelly (6-2, 210, senior), and an infusion of talent added from the offensive side.
“We’ve moved Kelly from the nine technique to the five technique,” Stroud said of the senior who was fifth on the team in tackles last season including a team-high seven sacks. “It’s more of a rush end kind of position. He’s lined up a little bit closer to the quarterback. He’s been a playmaker. He’s had a few little nagging injuries (in the preseason) but he’ll be fine. He’s got great take-off coming off the ball and, with that kind of speed, he can out-quick those big tackles.”
The additions are Cortez Williams (5-10, 255, senior) and Kordell Boykins (6-2, 225, senior). Williams started at center last season.
“I’d had Cortez as a sophomore and he’s got a lot of instincts that we like,” Stroud said. “I think a big thing that helped him is he’s dropped 30-plus pounds through off-season. He’s shown that he can move better and is faster. Tez can play both the one and the three in our scheme.”
Boykins was a starting guard as a junior.
“Kordell has come over and he’s must faster than we anticipated,” said Stroud. “He’s got a few little quirks to work out but he’s been a blessing. And he can play the three (technique) and the nine, tackle and end.”
Jared Koon (5-9 225, senior) also returns after playing considerably inside on the 2011 d-line.
“Koon is playing the one technique and he is using a lot better technique than he did before,” reported Stroud. “If they doubled down on him, he kind of got buried up. He’s kind of grown into the job a little more.”
At the end opposite Kelly, junior Austin May (5-11, 195) has been getting a lot of the playing time this fall.
“He’s playing strong end but really they can flip-flop it,” Stroud noted. “I’m working him at strong end right now. He was with the linebackers last year but we thought, ‘Well, let’s move him and see if he’ll takes to this a little better.’ And he has. He’s kind of small but he’ll be okay.”
Senior Justin Hollingshead (6-2, 200) played some at end last season but has been slowed by injury so far this year.
“I’ve had him just a few days,” Stroud mentioned. “He’s got a high ankle sprain. He’s been hurt the whole time. He’s wearing a boot right now but we’re hoping we can get him out there on the field (during game week).
“I told him, ‘You’re going to be huffin’ and puffin’ and you’re going to be rusty on your reads,’ but he knows that. He’s a good boy and he’ll help us once he gets a shape.”
That group, Stroud said, figure to be the primary players up front to start the season. As far as developing depth, he added he was impressed with sophomore Hunter Fugitt (5-11, 180) in the Hornets’ pre-season scrimmage against Little Rock Hall.
“I’m excited about Hunter Fugitt. He played hard. He might work into our rotation. I liked what I saw the other night.
“Noah Flores (5-11, 270, sophomore) moved in from Texas and was with Coach (Paul) Calley (on the offensive line) in the spring but we’re trying him on the d-line,” Stroud continued. “He’s a big kid. He’s not a speed guy. He’s playing tackle. But he’s got some instincts and he’s shown promise.
“Amador Gaspar (5-9, 210, junior) is a three technique that could help. Chad Adams (6-0, 240, sophomore) has missed some time because of a death in his family but he’ll be in the mix somewhere we’re hoping.”