As Northwestern State students prepare for classes starting next week, the Demon linebackers have had their noses buried deep in their defensive playbooks.
Because of more depth and quality at the inside and outside linebacker positions as NSU focused on getting faster, the Demons will put more linebackers on the field at the same time this season.
Outside linebackers coach Jake Olsen said this scheme transition has allowed the defense to cover more ground.
“That was our goal moving forward, to get more linebackers on the field because we had a lot of body types for it,” Olsen said. “We’ve got a lot of dynamic guys, and the depth in this group from the ones, twos and threes is really exciting.
“We saw a lot of guys play in (Saturday’s scrimmage) and be productive, which is what we want them to do.”
The linebackers’ ability to rush the passer stood out in NSU’s first scrimmage Saturday as the Demons racked up a total of six sacks.
Three sacks came from sophomore Jomard Valsin, who switched from defensive end to outside linebacker. Fellow sophomore Landon King also made the position switch.
Senior outside linebacker Quin Whitley, who played inside in 2018, said the group has benefitted from additional pass rushers.
“I think we were a little slow in the pass rush this spring, but these guys have come in and showed us some things,” Whitley said. “We’ve learned some techniques from those guys.
“I’m excited about moving outside and getting a chance to get in space and use my speed. I’m excited about getting more chances to cover guys and to blitz.”
Junior Kyle Moore played in every game this past season after transferring from Navarro College, and Moore entered camp as a starter opposite Valsin.
On the inside, senior Brice Borgeson and junior Isaiah Longino lead a group that has six upperclassmen in its three-deep.
Borgeson has 32 career appearances as he’s worked his way into a starting role as a fifth-year senior.
“We didn’t lose anybody in the linebacker group last year, and we’ve got a lot of younger guys mixed in with us, and we’ve got a really good group,” said Borgeson, who can focus more on the interior in the new scheme. “We’ve got 21 seniors this year, and that’s the most since I’ve been here.
“That strong senior leadership is one of the biggest parts of having a successful team, and we’ve mentored the younger guys because we’re going to need a lot of them to step up and play as well. We also brought in transfers Ja’Quay Pough and Adrion Robertson, and they’ve been big additions for us, too.”
Pough is a Texas Tech transfer who had a successful two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College. Robertson was an all-conference linebacker at Kilgore Junior College.
Longino entered camp as the starter alongside Borgeson on the inside after he finished sixth on the team with 48 tackles as a top reserve linebacker in 2018.
“We’re getting consistency out of this position because they know what to expect and know the calls and verbiage,” Olsen said. “We have continuity within the coaching staff, too.
“They’re hearing the same things and same messages from last year. The trust they’ve built within each other is huge for us.”
Pictured above: Linebacker Kyle Moore wraps up ball carrier Curtis Williams on Saturday at Northwestern State’s first scrimmage of fall camp.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services
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