If the Northern Michigan University football team wants to improve on their 4-7 record from a year ago, their defense must be better than it was in the beginning in the 2012 season.
The Wildcats played a number of inexperienced players on the defensive side of the football, especially in the secondary. Just like their offense, the defense improved as a whole in the second half of the season.
In June, defensive coordinator Brian Newberry left NMU for another job. Joe Ballard was promoted by head coach Chris Ostrowsky to be the team’s new defensive coordinator in July.
Coach Ballard has kept the playbook relatively the same from a year ago, but he has simplified the terminology. According to the Wildcats defensive leaders, simplifying the terminology in the playbook has made things easier for them to understand.
“Simplifying the playbook has made it extremely easy for the new guys coming in, the transfers and the freshmen,” said senior defensive back Brandon Parson. “Last year when we were learning the defense, it was a heavy load to take in. But now that it’s simplified, it’s easier. Everyone is able to play faster and get the calls in more smoothly.”
“Last year we were trying to find our identity,” said senior linebacker Morgan Stenz. “Towards the end of the year when we started beating some of those big ranked teams, it was because we were aggressive, we were attacking, and we were able to disguise our coverages because we understood the defense better.”
“We have a really, really tough schedule. It’s been our motto that if you want to be the best, then you have to beat the best. That’s how we have approached every practice. We’re trying to outwork our opponent everyday,” added Stenz.
“They’re playing with energy and they’re playing with passion. They’re running to the football, we’re emphasizing that into things,” said head coach Chris Ostrowsky about the Wildcats defense. “We’ve recruited some really good players, some transfers and some freshman guys who are really, really special that weren’t here last year and have brought a lot to our defense as well,” said Ostrowsky.
One thing the NMU defense want to do more of this season is get after the quarterback. The Wildcats ranked last in the GLIAC a season ago with just eight total sacks.