Defense has stout linebacker corps

Published 10:02 am Thursday, August 18, 2022

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

In 2014, Davie’s defense featured linebackers Christian Launius and James Boyle. The 2015-16 units were anchored by Boyle and Cody Hendrix. In 2017, Hendrix and Matthew King swarmed. And in 2018, King and Peyton Hampton were the teeth in the middle of the defense.

Davie was down at linebacker the past three seasons, but a stout linebacker corps has returned for 2022. Between inside and outside linebacker, there’s 10 guys duking it out for four starting spots.

“We haven’t had (inside) linebacker depth in quite a few years,” head coach Tim Devericks said. “So having the ability to play six guys – six quality guys – really helps our team because collectively they’re a group that flies around. They know: ‘Hey, I’ve got to perform.’ Sometimes having pressure from people behind you makes you focus in and perform a little bit better.”

“We’ve got athleticism across the board at all four linebacker spots, and we’ve got playmakers,” defensive coordinator Blaine Nicholson said. “They can set the tone for us. We’re going to be a little bit young up front (on the d-line) and we’re going to be a little bit young in the back (in the secondary), but those four seniors in the middle are really going to help us out a bunch. They’ve all played a bunch of varsity games. They know what it takes to win in the CPC. They basically have their hand in everything. They have their hand in the run fits. They have their hand in the pass coverage. We’ve got some guys who can most definitely make some plays.”

Senior Mason Shermer (6-2, 200) is a beast. He plays outside linebacker like a pit bull protecting its turf.

“Mason is the real deal,” OLB coach Perry Long said. “He’s got good speed. He can defend the flats in pass coverage and he can rush off the edge. He’s the outside linebacker that you want to have in this (3-4) defense. I’m telling you, he’s unreal. If you lollygag a pass over there in the flats, he’s going to pick your stuff off.”

“He’s a very smart guy,” Nicholson said. “We expect him to be flying all over the field.”

Senior Ethan Silvey (6-0, 175), who has moved from cornerback to outside linebacker since 2021, is a unique talent.

“Ethan is an elite athlete,” Nicholson said. “He’s good physicality-wise as well. He’s a weight-lifting, workout warrior. He allows a defensive coordinator to do different things because he’s so versatile. He can fit on the run really, really well. We’re excited to see what he can do in the pass rush, what he can do in the run fits and what he can do in man coverage. He’s got elite tools, man.”

“Ethan has flourished,” Devericks said. “His ability to use his speed and play in space is awesome.”

It starts with Shermer and Silvey, but it continues with seniors Justin Hayes, John Stokes, Will Burris and Chase Carson and juniors Zack Banks, Ian Boger, Zander Richardson and Jerred Alexander.

Hayes (6-1, 205), who was third in 2021 with 70 tackles in 10 games, is the top returning tackler.

“He’s gotten faster in the offseason and he’s always ready to mix it up,” Nicholson said of the inside linebacker.

“Justin is another guy who can run and get to the ball,” Devericks said.

Stokes (5-11, 195) has blossomed after moving from defensive end to inside ‘backer.

“John was one of our most aggressive players last year,” Nicholson said. “He’s one of those guys that plays with his hair on fire. We’ve put him in the middle of the field so he can make more plays – as opposed to being a defensive end where he was only on one side.”

Banks (5-10, 195), Burris (5-8, 160), Boger (6-0, 160) and Carson (5-10, 185) put the defense in a great situation at inside ‘backer. Richardson (5-10, 170) and Alexander (6-4, 175) are viable options at OLB.

“Banks and Burris will be key contributors,” Nicholson said.

“We’ll play all 10 of those guys,” Devericks said.