This week, I sat down with Tiger Football coach Mike Sizemore with the intention of getting some insight on this year’s defense. As usual, coach didn’t let me down with his rock-solid, in depth answers about this year’s D. 

Tanner Hoskins: What do you feel we’ve improved on as a defense this offseason? 

Mike Sizemore: “First and foremost we are another year older and another year of experience has come with that. I really liked the way our defense played last year, we've came leaps and bounds on that side of the football over the last two seasons. Our understanding of the game has improved, and our kids see where they fit into the big picture of the scheme on defense. Kids improve through repetition and hopefully our kids are going to be able to translate that over to the field this fall.” 

TH: What goals have you set for this defense, as a team, and for individuals?

MS: “As a team our goal is to be better every time we step on the football field. We always want to work to improve ourselves and our understanding of the game as well as our understanding of what has to be sacrificed in order to win out there on Friday nights. Winning doesn't come cheap, there is a price that has to consistently be paid to get there and I really like what our kids are doing on the defensive side of the football to put ourselves in a position to move forward as a program.”

 MS: “As coaches, we are focused on the process, and what that entails. It's hard not to sound cliché when talking about goals or outcomes but we truly want our kids to be driven daily to do the right thing, the right way, every time they step on the field. If our kids have the blue-collar mentality like we want them to and they keep showing up every day ready to work, learn, and improve, everything else takes care of itself.” 

Lastly, I asked coach Sizemore to tell me at length about players he feels that will contribute heavily this season, and list some of our kids’ attributes based by position group.

MS:Secondary – “Our secondary is gaining depth with the kids we have out there this summer. Chandler Hubbard returns at Free Safety coming off an outstanding season last year and I think he has the potential to be even better this coming season. He plays the ball in the air extremely well and will not back away from physicality.  Trevor Smith and Dominic Hubbard also return in the secondary. Dominic is one of the most athletic kids in our school and has the potential to put up solid season in 2019. Trevor is a smart football player that knows how to put himself in positions to succeed on the field, he is extremely coachable and has a great work ethic that is going to carry over to the field this fall. Jacob Jones and Adam Collins both had terrific summers and will be looked upon to add depth in the secondary on Friday nights this season.” 

MS:Linebackers – “This is where graduation hit us the hardest last year. We have a couple of kids that are doing an excellent job of filling the holes left at our inside line-backer positions and I can’t wait to see how they do in a game setting. We have Jaden Gay at one linebacker spot. Jaden is pound for pound one of the strongest kids I have ever coached and although he doesn't have a lot of experience at the position he is a very intelligent kid and has gotten better every day. Blake Mills is another kid that is going to be stepping in there to fill one of those spots. Blake is a multi-sport kid that came out for football last year after having success on the baseball field. He is the epitome of the type of kid I want on the football team here, he is a multi-sport guy that is very intelligent, not afraid to play physical, and will give it everything he's got on the field. Nathan Bishop could see time in there as well and has gained valuable experience playing there the last couple of seasons. Jacob Maggard and Chandler Hubbard will be playing our outside linebacker spots, these guys done a great job last year and I look forward to seeing how they do in 2019. Jacob gets as much out of his ability as any kid I have ever coached. He is easily one of the most coachable guys on the team and has improved dramatically since this time last year. I also expect Chandler Hibbard to bring that toughness and never quit mentality to the position. He has a great attitude that is hard to top, and I could see him having a breakout senior season this fall. Ben Meadows is going to also have a solid season at one of those outside backer spots and is more like a hybrid for us as he can play safety as well. Connor Rudder is another guy that is working extremely hard for us in practice and is fighting for a spot on the field for this fall. I really like this group and see them progressing in a positive direction as we move forward.”

MS:Defensive Line – “We really need the strength of our team to be the defensive line. We return seniors like Matthew Fultz, Evan Langdon, DJ McCulley, and Trevor Day in the front four. These kids have shown they can really get after it and they could potentially give offenses trouble with how they get off the ball and the physicality they play with. We also have guys like Mark Jackson, Damien Duff, Ben Nelson, Dalton Mathis, Zander Hensley, Landon Spurlock, Carson Mckeehan, Kevin Oliver, and Carson Sizemore who will give us valuable minutes in games. We have had some outstanding players at this position, but this is the deepest that we have been on the defensive line since I have been here and that was one of the things we had to improve on to ever get to where we need to be. Depth on the defensive line is a deal break at the level of football we are playing at and I can see us finally starting to gain some ground there.”

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