Demon linebackers embracing proud defensive tradition
NATCHITOCHES – There’s almost two decades of tradition that the Northwestern State defense aims to restore in 2017, if the veteran linebacking corps has its way.
Four seniors anchor the position, three who were learning as they went last season as junior college transfers while the Demons allowed 34 points and 467 yards per game. There’s great determination to make major improvement this fall.
The makeover under new defensive coordinator Brad Laird includes new coaches at each position except cornerbacks, where veteran staffer De’Von Lockett remains. Laird handles the safeties, head coach Jay Thomas is in charge of the defensive line, and Jake Olsen is the new linebackers coach.
Nick Pierotti and Chrishard Buhl have been at NSU for only 18 months, but describing the defense, they used the same “wake up the echoes” brand name for their unit: “Purple Swarm.”
That was coined in 1996, when Laird was beginning his coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant under head coach Sam Goodwin and new defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto. The attacking philosophy continued under head coaches Steve Roberts (2000-01) and Scott Stoker (2002-08) in a record-shattering stretch that netted five playoff appearances and three Southland Conference championships in eight seasons.
“We’re going to run to the ball, we’re going to tackle, and we’re going to try to force turnovers to put our offense in good position,” said Pierotti, who led NSU with 85 tackles last season. “We’re going to be way better than last year, I can promise you that. I’m excited about what the new defense has in store for us.”
“We’ve come a long way from spring, just leaps and bounds farther,” said Buhl. “We’re better than any point in my year and half here. We’re gelling.
“We have speed, we have some awesome leaders at every position. We’re big up front, we’re fast, we’ve got the coaches, we’ve got the scheme, so I feel we’re going to do some great things this year.”
Buhl had 33 tackles last year. A third JC transfer last year, Koby Welch, piled up 61. The old man of the bunch is three-year letterman Peyton Guidry, with 36 stops in 2016. Only two will be on the field for most snaps, but the mature group is more concerned with doing its part.
“There’s definitely a high competition level at our position. We have a weight on our position to be the leaders defensively, to make sure the guys in front of us and behind us are all on the same page,” said Guidry.
“I’ve been blessed to have these seniors to lead by example,” said Olsen. “It was an adjustment from last year and they’ve done well learning our system.”
The veterans have been impressed by the young players waiting for their chance.
Said Guidry: “The future looks bright for those young guys.”
“There’s a big group of good young players,” said Buhl.
True freshman Isaiah Longino has been among the top tacklers in both preseason scrimmages, heading a group that brims with promise.
“(Sophomore) Dez Gray had a good spring. He’s a very good athlete,” said Olsen. “Isaiah has made me super excited about his future. Landon King and Jackson Carroll are two other true freshmen who have picked it up quickly and play hard. (Sophomores) Ricky (Chatman) has really developed from a football physicality standpoint, and Corban (James) is always going to be physical and is a high energy guy.
“I like the guys in our room,” said Olsen.
Monday, the Demons went through their regular in-season academic focus day, with no practice, as classes began on campus. Installation of elements of the game plan for the Sept. 2 season opener against Louisiana Tech will begin later this week, said head coach Jay Thomas.
- < PREV New leadership roles in Athletics Department at Brother Martin
- NEXT > Brother Martin looks to draw closer to major goals in 2017