Retooled ‘D’

By TJ MAXWELL
Cove Leader-Press
Speed kills. That phrase could describe the 2015 edition of Copperas Cove Bulldawg defense to a ‘T’. Graduated are the monsters that clogged up the middle of the defense for the Bulldawgs (linemen Phil Amua, Tyrell Thompson, Shakanah Herrera and linebacker Jaylen Waters) and with them goes the 3-4 defensive front. Replacing them are a smaller, but speedier four-man front, led by returner Johnathan Fusilier. The Dawgs will take advantage of their speed across the board The Dawgs will especially be quick onthe back end, led by returning defensive back and track standout Shamad Lomax, who led Cove in interceptions with four and pass break ups with 31 in 2014. “I feel our strengths on defense will be everything – defensive line, linebackers, safeties and corners,” said Lomax. “We really want it. We want a district championship, so that’s what we’re working for.” Lomax was part of two sprint relay squads for Cove that were posting strong numbers all season until injuries and academic obligations derailed their possible run to state. Also returning in the secondary for the Dawgs is speedster linebacker D’Mani Paepaelalo who covers ground as well as anyone. Another track standout Sean Bedford, who helped the junior varsity dominate this season, will return in the saefty position. Another JV standout in track and football, Elijah Jordan, will also man the secondary for the Dawgs. “That’s going to help us a lot, especially in the secondary,” Lomax said about the team speed. “We should not be giving up any big plays. We’re playing off and we have speed back there so there shouldn’t be any big plays. Our linebackers are led by D’Mani Paepaelalo he’s just going to be all over the place.” With so few returnng starters on both sides of the ball, leadership will be key this season and Lomax, currently a junior, is ready to fill that role. “As a leader, I need to have an attitude that reflects leadership,” he said. “I have to be enthusiastic. If they’re doing bad I have to push them and pick them up, because as a leader they’re going to follow me, so everything I do they’re going to do.” Lomax likes what he’s seen from the totallly reloaded offense in the first five practices he’s faced them. Despite, having only one returner at running back (Antonio Lealiiee), two receivers (junior Ra’Shaun Henry and sophomore Isaiah McGriff) and one lineman from last year’s squad (sophomore Alex Ramirez), he feels the offense hasn’t skipped a beat and credits the coaching staff for it. “Our offense is great,” he said. “I feel like we have the best offensive staff in the state. They have good plays, good people, good quarterbacks, good running backs, good receivers and a good offensive line. I think our offense is gonna be great.” J.P. Urquidez, a four-star recruit and Baylor-commit who started for the Dawgs as a sophomore, returns to Cove to bolster the young, but seemingly strong, offensive line. “The offensive line is doing great,” said Lomax. “I’ve been peeking down there a little bit. We have J.P. (Urquidez) back and that’s a big help. The whole offensive line is doing a good job right now. A battle for the offensive leader will be big for the Dawgs as well with the departure of record-setting quarterback Manny Harris, who will play for the UTSA Roadrunners. Juniors Michael Hays and Cain Garner are the frontrunners for the spot with a pair of freshmen also seeing some time under center. Hays, currently embroiled in a baseball playoff run, returns from last year’s varsity squad where he saw time as a starter while Garner moves up from a dominant Junior Varsity Gold squad that posted big numbers in 2014. “Mike Hays is in baseball right now, but when he’s here, he’s producing,” said Lomax. Cain (Garner) is producing and we have a freshman Jaylen Smith that’s producing as well. It’s going to be a great battle for quarterback and I just can’t wait to see what happens.” Lomax knows the 18 practices in 30 days of spring ball is vital to the team’s success in 2015. He the progression of his secondary but also knows the work has just begun. “As far as the secondary, we’ve been getting better each and every day,” he said. “I’ve been going home, watching film and seeing the stuff we need to improve on and what the coaches tell us about. Everyday we’re getting better and better. We just need to keep working and stay aggressive.” The Dawgs put the new schemes and players to the test in their first inter-squad scrimmage of the spring season last night. Results of the scrimmage to come in Tuesday’s Copperas Cove Leader-Press.

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