In Southern’s past four games, the Jaguars defense recorded 20 of its 26 total sacks. And Southern is on a four-game win streak.
Linebacker Demetrius Carter said the increase in sacks has been a big part of slowing opposing offenses.
At the start of the season, the defense was giving up too many passing yards, Carter said. So best way to cut down those numbers is to disrupt the passer.
“When (the quarterbacks) get hit, it changes up the timing between their receivers and throws of the offensive line, and those guys try to do their best to protect their quarterback,” Carter said. “When we get to their quarterback, it’s like the lifeline of their team. So we just try to get to him as best as we can.”
Leading the way in sacks is Arthur Miley (5.5 sacks), Aaron Tiller (4.5), Carter (3.0), Donald Phillips (3.0), and Gabe Echols (2.5).
Head coach and defensive coordinator Dawson Odums said the increase in sacks has less to do with the addition or change of personnel and more to do with the time of the year. With each passing game, Odums said, the stakes are higher and the days and opportunities to make plays happen are numbered.
“The way our program is built, as we go through (the season), our guys get better and they adapt to what we’re trying to get done,” Odums said. “They just found a way to make more plays. It’s the same guys; they’re just making more plays.”
Practicing against scout team offensive linemen and 2013 all-Southwestern Athletic Conference player Anthony Mosley every day as well as a short competition period during practices that reflects game-time speed has helped as well. With former starters on the scout team, there’s been an emphasis on practice players making current starters better.
“We try to do the best we can; we’re a blue-collar group,” Carter said. “We try to put ourselves in game situations and maximize the reps that we have in practice. Every day we go out there we try to do the best we can. We try to work and do better than yesterday.”
Donald Phillips, who got his first sack during the last defensive play of the 2012 Bayou Classic, has started every game on the defensive line this season. Phillips said the Jaguars’ defensive IQ has increased since the beginning of fall camp, which has allowed the line to play together with ease and flow as a unit.
“With practice being so intense, the defense came together on a more of a communication standpoint,” Phillips said. “Us being together day-by-day and week-by-week, we got a feel of each other and how each other plays. You can go on the field and do what you have to do.”
Miley, who is in his last season with Southern, agreed and added that the return of the experienced defensive line helped relieve pressure from the defensive line allowing the front group to “fly around and make plays.”
What motivates the defensive players the most is Odums, who preaches having pride and inspires the players to practice, improve and leave it all on the field when it’s time to compete.
“We understand the position we’re in as far as our season and what’s its going to take to get to the championship and complete our goal,” Carter said. “We just have to take a certain amount of pride in our defense, because if teams can’t score, they can’t win.”