Nederland keeps district reign with defensive changes

Published 11:49 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NEDERLAND — Peyton DeVries went from inside linebacker to outside linebacker.
Vincent Tran took the inside linebacker role after starting out on the defensive line.
Changes like these have come aplenty on Nederland’s defense. While they may not be distinct to the casual football fan, the pieces came together as the season progressed and the Bulldogs secured their fifth straight District 22-5A championship.
“Probably the real reason we’re where we are at today is because — more than any other reason; we still haven’t played every facet of the game — our defense has matured,” Nederland coach Larry Neumann said. “Early on, we were having a hard time finding ourselves personnel-wise and scheme-wise. Through the efforts of Delbert Spell, our defensive coordinator, our defensive coaches and the development of players in general — there are more than 11 guys playing on defense for us — they just steadily got better, and I think without that development, it’d be tougher to be where we’re at.”
Spell has been the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator since Neumann became head coach in 1993, but he doesn’t just rely on one scheme. In fact, showing opposing offenses different looks, along with the personnel changes, has allowed the Bulldogs (7-3, 6-1 in 22-5A) to show improvement in Spell’s unit.
“We try to get our kids into the best matchups where they’re the most successful,” Spell said. “But it has little to do with scheme and more to do with players. We’ve got some tough kids, they play hard, and we’re real proud of them.”
Here’s how the changes have paid off: Nederland has not allowed more than 30 points in the past eight games and held its last three opponents to 21 or fewer points. Their 339.3 total yards per game ranks fourth in the district, as well, and senior Jalin Cunningham (four), Jalin Johnson and Tavian Mayfield (three) ranks among the top eight in interceptions, with Cunningham topping the chart.
“Jacob Jones at linebacker and Tavian Mayfield at safety, both of those guys have helped us line up on the front and back ends, and by their own performances, they’ve enhanced our performances,” Neumann said.
Most of the Bulldogs’ defensive changes have come on the line, where Neumann says about six players play three positions up front. Sometimes, the front changes along with the scheme.
But it’s all about winning the matchup in the end. That’s what Nederland didn’t do during its 0-2 start.
“We learned from playing our first couple of games,” Tran said. “Our defense wasn’t clicking at first, but once we started moving around some people, we started clicking a lot.”
For Spell, the challenge of even having to replace seven starters on defense going into the season has become a rewarding one as the Bulldogs continue their district dynasty.
“Our defense, we always talk about making things happen, next man up if someone goes down,” Jones said. “You always got to be ready, no matter what the situation is, no matter when the time comes. Everyone’s ready to go at any time.”

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About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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