With Illinois signee and reigning Daily Chronicle Male Athlete of the Year Dre Brown anchoring a high-octane pistol-option offense, the defense on the DeKalb football team can get overlooked.
It doesn’t help that the team gave up almost 29 points a game last season in coach Matt Weckler’s first year.
The players and coaches have high expectations for this season after making the playoffs last year for only the second time since 1989. And although opponents might be focused on the offense, the defense is expecting to turn some heads.
“Defense is looking better and better each day,” senior linebacker Jake Kuykendall said. “We’ve been doing real well lately. We kind of like being the underdog, flying under the radar so we can surprise teams.”
Even the offense has taken note. Receiver Rudy Lopez said a big strength of the team is the defense.
Weckler said the linebacking corps is particularly strong, with four seniors in the five spots. Also playing there are seniors Allen Letterer (a transfer from Hiawatha), Tony Ramos and Jonathan Vega, as well as junior Leif Williams.
Weckler said the team has shown improvements on both sides of the ball, mainly because the growing pains of learning the system mostly are out of the way.
He said the plays and schemes, especially on defense, are much more intricate than last year.
“For us to be good, we have to have a good defense and improve on what we did last year,” Weckler said. “I look at other teams across the state that are good and are perennial title contenders, and they always have great defenses.”
With Brown and Eriq Torrey playing in the secondary more this year than last, Weckler said the backs will be greatly improved, as well.
On offense, the Barbs still will utilize the option, with Tony Tate and Torrey splitting time in the backfield with Brown. Quarterback still isn’t settled yet as of Aug. 20 between junior Ethan Conroy and sophomore Derek Kyler.
“There’s still some stuff we don’t know, but we know most of the stuff,” Brown said. “We know how practice goes. We know how the games [are] going to go. We have an identity now of what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.”
Letterer said the team expects a lot out of the season – more than the 5-5 record, fourth-place Northern Illinois Big 12 East finish and first-round playoff exit that 2013 brought.
“We’re capable of anything we put our mind to,” Letterer said. “We’ve got a hard-working team. We have a lot of big goals and big expectations for this season.”