By Kevin Wilson
Whether the defense is 4-4, 3-4, 4-3 or 4-2-5, they’re all just numbers to the Clovis Wildcats.
But then again, so is 391. It’s the points-against total for Clovis last year, breaking the school mark of 367 set in the 2012 campaign.
It was, simply put, frustrating.
“Some people cared, some people didn’t care,” said senior Kaine Bender, who is one of the integral pieces of Clovis’ new 4-2-5 defense.
The nickel package, co-defensive coordinator Drew Hatley said, will hopefully give the team both stability and flexibility.
“It allows you to adjust to multiple sets and alignments without having to use different personnel,” Hatley said. “It allows you to keep your best 11 guys on the field.”
The nickel defense is predicated on five defensive backs to defend the pass, with the caveat that one or two of the backs can also play in linebacker settings in running and short passing situations.
“I’ll be playing more of an outside linebacker,” said Jordan Holguin, who mostly handed free safety duties as a junior last season. “We’ll have Matt (Lanier) and Dylan (Smith) at the main linebacker spots this year.”
The crop of defensive backs, all seniors, are Bender, Holguin, Brody Edwards, Antonio Hicks and Jaquan Franklin.
In short-yardage situations, Holguin will be the main Wildcat with hybrid linebacker/defensive back duties.
“He’s a great kid, and we need him to do a lot of things,” Hatley said. “He led us in tackles last year, so we thought he was a good fit.”
Holguin noted that the defense needs to set the tone, especially given that Clovis graduated just about every skill position, including all-time leading rusher Kamal Cass.
“A lot of times last year, the defense was dependent on the offense,” Holguin said. “We’d just say, ‘Kamal will score.’ This year, we can’t say that. We’ve got to make stops.”
Co-coordinator Darrell Davis, echoing Hatley, said the defensive scheme plays a small role in the Wildcats’ success, with defensive effort playing a much larger role.
“We want the kids to play fast,” Davis said, “we want the kids to play hard. We want the kids to play smart and play together.”
The defense, implemented over the summer, is still a work in progress heading into the team’s Aug. 22 scrimmage against Las Cruces and season opener Aug. 30 at Goddard. But Bender said it’s raised both the level of play and expectations.
“Coach Hatley is a high-intensity coach,” Bender said. “We have to play that way. I think it will help us go against some (difficult) situations.”