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Nederland swat specialist Landen Caywood uses length to get in passing lanes

NEDERLAND — Nederland defensive end Landen Caywood does not match the typical build for a defensive lineman.

He is slimmer than the average edge rusher but uses athleticism to make plays many others cannot.

The junior stands at 6’2” and uses his long arms to disrupt the opposing team’s passing game by swatting balls down before they even have a chance to reach their intended targets.

Last season, Caywood started on a senior-heavy team as a sophomore.

“He is a different breed at that position,” Nederland Head Coach Monte Barrow said. “He is more of a skill-type kid. He had a great sophomore year and I think that gave him confidence. Hopefully going into this, he can use that and improve.”

Caywood led the team in batted balls last season.

“He had a few in our first scrimmage against Hamshire-Fannett,” Barrow said. “He is a guy that has a high motor and can make things happen off the edge for us. That is huge going against the offenses we go against today that try to get outside and use space.”

Caywood said the ability to deflect passes is a product of good instruction from Nederland defensive line coach Jody Walker.

“If I have an open rush and he is about to throw, Coach Walker tells us to get our hands in the lane,” Caywood said. “If I am not close enough for a sack, I will just jump up.”

Last year, Caywood finished the season with five sacks. The junior hopes to get that total up to double digits.

He said his experience on varsity as a sophomore was difficult but helpful in the long run.

“It was fun,” he said. “I had a good time. It was a good experience. I was the youngest one on the defense. It was also hard learning everything and having the older kids get on to you, but it was good. It helped me a lot. Now, I have a lot more experience.”

Even as a sophomore, Caywood made an impact on the Bulldogs. Against Barbers Hill, the defensive end came up huge on a fake punt by the Eagles and hit the punter short of the first down marker to force a turnover.

In the final game of the regular season and for a share of the district title, Caywood deflected a pass on a third and long play to help the Bulldogs win.

Barrow said Caywood’s versatility gives defensive coordinator Chris Theriot a weapon to play with.

“He played baseball, so he is not one of these guys who is just a big lineman that can’t move,” Barrow said. “It is always good to have guys that are flexible like that, who allow you to do things within your defense that you couldn’t do otherwise.”

The Bulldogs open up the season against West Orange-Stark at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium.