Football coach Ed Carberry may have a second career as a floral arranger. His arrangements are hard to beat, especially if they play defense.
“You never get a dozen roses,” he said. “The coach has to take that group of flowers and make a beautiful bouquet out of it.”
A rose by any other name probably does not finish the season 9-1.
Returning a core group of players can be difficult with the revolving door of community college athletics. Transferring athletes and injuries leave coaches mixing and matching.
That is why expectations are so high for the Jaguars defensive front seven, made up of four defensive linemen and three linebackers. SWC has six returning sophomore players in its magnificent seven. Carberry said he expects his defense to lead the way.
“They better (dominate),” he said. “It’s their time.”
Two key players missing from last year’s 4-6 team are returning to lead this year’s loaded defense. After suffering a knee injury in 2015, sophomore Rasheed Farha said he is ready to pick up where he left off.
“That was the hardest thing, just trying to get back to where I was,” he said.
Joining Farha this season is sophomore defensive tackle Messai Small, who is returning after redshirting last season. He said it was tough to sit out 2015, but he wanted to make sure he was healthy for this season.
“It was depressing (last year),” he said. “Knowing that (I) could contribute and not being able to.”
Defensive end Shaq Bradford said he is glad to have Small and Farha return.
“There’s challenges you go through each and every day on the field,” he said. “It’s just good to have them back.”
Defensive coordinator Dionicio Monarrez said the front seven has a championship mentality.
“All great teams have a swag where they just believe you can’t beat them,” he said. “I think this team has that.”
Sophomores Bradford, Small, Farha and Hayden Herrington fire up the defensive line. Small said the battle is won in the trenches so the defensive line has to put the defense on its broad shoulders.
“It really is on us,” he said. “We have to set the tone. If we don’t do our job, no one else on the defense can do theirs.”
Pressuring the quarterback with four down linemen opens things up for the rest of the defense, creating opportunities for turnovers. Linebackers Matt Secrest, Kevin Gaines and Moli Faalogo will add pressure with blitzes and provide support in coverage against the passing game. Faalogo, a freshman middle linebacker, said defensive play calling can give the linebackers more cushion in pass coverage.
So far the front seven has excelled at forcing opposing offenses to go three and out, and pressuring quarterbacks into bad decisions. The Jaguars defense has held opponents to 22 percent on third down conversions and have 32 turnovers. Carberry said the success of the defense has been giving the Jaguars offense better field position and more minutes on the field.
“The defense has been giving our offense time to find itself,” he said.
Much of the defense’s success can be attributed to its conditioning. SWC players are determined to out work their opponents, whether sprinting up the stands of Devore Stadium after practice or spending hours in the weight room.
Carberry said strength is key in a system based on overpowering opponents.
“It’s the only way to compete,” he said. “In order to compete at (the university) level they have to get bigger and stronger.”