Editor’s Note: This concludes a two-part series looking at Baker School's football team heading into summer practice. We focused on the Gator offense in the May 31-June 3 edition. Now we focus on the Gator defense.
Our upcoming editions will focus on Crestview High's football team as the Bulldogs start their summer program.
BAKER — One only has to know Baker School football coach Matt Brunson to understand his defensive philosophy.
The former Gator and Troy University nose tackle loves an aggressive, hard-hitting defense that swarms to the football.
The 2014 Baker defense enters the summer a work in progress after being hit hard by graduation, but Brunson is confident the team will be ready when the season starts in a little less than three months.
“Defensively we work on technique every day,” he said. “We have a new group together and we are only returning three starters from last year’s team. I think we will be very tough in the box.
“Our linebackers, we’ve got three good ones. Our defensive front is coming along. We’ve got big shoes to fill (on the front line) in (replacing) Kodi Nixon, Dakota Campbell, Chasen Holt and Izayiah Thomas.”
Two of the three returning starters – Austin Martin and Montae Barto – play linebacker, which Brunson expects to be the strength of the defense. The other returning starter is cornerback Jacob Nixon.
A rising junior, Barto stands 6-foot-2, weighs about 230 pounds, and looks very much like a prototypical college prospect.
Barto moves from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. Martin returns for his third year as a starter at outside linebacker. He’ll start on the weak side. Dakota Smith and Tristan Carroll will compete for time at the strong side.
When offenses spread things out Alante Coleman will drop back to an inside linebacker from his nose guard position.
No position on the team was hit harder by graduation than the defense line.
“Our defensive front is totally new,” Brunson said.
But new does not mean without talent.
Jonathan Gatewood, Lamar Banks, Oakley Kimbrel and Ian Stoutenbourgh will man the defensive end positions. Brunson said Kimbrel is going to be a good player.
Ben Martin, Dakota Blackburn Bubba Ellis and Calvin Blankenship join Coleman at the tackle positions.
“Those guys will mix it up inside and they also play the offensive line,” Brunson said.
Baker must replace three starters in the secondary.
Gone from last year’s team are safety Richard Stroheker and cover corner Kodi Moen.
The Gators inexperience in the secondary sometimes showed in the spring game against Chipley
“We had some miscommunication in the secondary against Chipley the other night,” Brunson said. “But sometimes that happens. With a summer of work our secondary is going to get better.”
Jacob Nixon returns as a starting cornerback. David Oglesby, who saw plenty of action in the secondary last year and had a key interception against Northview, will battle for the other corner along with Josh Mayhew.
Ralph Poythress and Austin Davis will compete at safety.
All things considered Brunson likes the way the defense is taking shape.
“They ran to the ball good the other night (against Chipley) and they played with a lot of intensity,” he said. “With the work we will do this summer we will be fine going into the fall.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.