Keys to Defensive Success Lies with Front Line

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CLINTON, MS - In the coming weeks, we will take a chance to preview each position on the field for the Choctaws as we head toward the season opening "Backyard Brawl" on September 3rd against Millsaps.  We invite MC fans to take a look and get more acclimated with the 2011 group of Choctaws.

The schedule will be as follows:

Quarterbacks – August 15th
Running Backs – August 16th
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends – August 17th
Offensive Line – August 18th
Defensive Line – TODAY
Linebackers – TOMORROW
Secondary – August 22nd
Special Teams – August 23rd
Offense – August 24th
Defense – August 25th
Overall – August 26th

The Choctaw defensive line underwent the most changes in the offseason as they saw the hiring of a new defensive coordinator in Chad Walker and a new position coach in Mitchell Pate.  They also had All-Conference defensive end Nolan Willisson graduate along with the movement of Jarryn Bingham and Sam Maze to the linebacker position.  All of those changes will force new players to step up and take the reins and lead a defense that finished fifth in ASC in most categories in 2010.

Senior nose guard Jeremy Horton could be the focal point of the new Choctaw defense as he will be asked to take up a lot of space in the middle and allow the rest of the defense to make plays.  After a stellar sophomore season in which Horton recorded 20 tackles and eight solo stops, the Terry native took a step back in 2010.  Now set up in a defense that more suits his ability, Jeremy is poised to have a breakout senior year.

Stepping up behind Horton at the nose will be freshman John Bertucci.  The rookie comes in as a highly-touted recruit from Archbishop Rummel High School.  John picked the Choctaws over such schools as Henderson State and other Division I schools.  Bertucci gives MC another athletic big man in the middle to disrupt offensive schemes.

At defensive end, there is a big competition between seniors and freshmen.  West Georgia transfer Dekores Branch and senior Justin McClinton are the experience at the position and provide a lot of athleticism.  Branch was a former Vicksburg High School standout that was a three-time All-District performer.  McClinton only played in three games last season due to injury, but appears to be 100% as the Choctaws get closer to the start of the season.

Nipping on the heels of the upperclassmen are two youngsters that have impressed the coaches and teammates over the first week.  Josh Williams and Mike Mitchell have turned heads throughout preseason and will push for significant playing time as the season opens up. 

Former Clinton standout Paul Turner gives the Choctaws even more depth at the end position.  Turner has impressed with his work ethic and non-stop motor.

Defensive line coach Mitchell Pate commented on his line, "I've been excited early on about the talent we have on the line.  Our guys have really been working hard and they have  such good attitudes.  They have been very coachable and attentive to all of the changes that have gone on.

"Our young guys have caught on quickly to our scheme.  They have put in the work to learn everything we are doing.  It definitely gives the coaching staff several options, and we can't wait to see what these guys do in their career."

With three seniors possible starting on the defensive line, they Choctaws have college playing experience, but not much MC experience.   The future is very bright at the position with the possibility of three freshman seeing significant playing time in their first season.