By Zach Greenwell
There wasn’t a whole lot said about Western Kentucky’s new 4-3 defense during Tuesday’s media day activities, but the scheme received rave reviews from the players in attendance.
“Our defensive scheme is coming along – I like it a lot,” senior linebacker Thomas Majors said. “The only difference is that instead of having a two-gap scheme, we’ve got a one-gap scheme. We just have one gap to control, so if everyone does their job, things should go well.”
Junior defensive end Jared Clendenin said he also prefers the new look to the old 3-4.
“Last year it was a lot more positioning, trying to get in position laterally,” Clendenin said. “This year we’re going downhill, getting in those gaps and firing off the ball. You don’t have to think as much this year – you’ve got one assignment and you just go.”
New defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said that the players need to work on polishing basic fundamentals and developing a tougher mentality.
“We just want to continue to build what we started in the springtime, and that’s getting in a defensive mentality in which those kids feel that when they step on the field, no one’s going to move the ball on them,” Bowen said. “Our kids did a nice job in the summer … so when they showed up yesterday, their knowledge level didn’t drop off – it actually increased from when we finished the spring time.
“You see them in practice – there’s not that lost look. Now they can get the call, stay focused and work on the small things.”
It was a rough year for the Toppers’ defense last season, and it was one that Clendenin said stifled the unit’s confidence.
The rebuilding of that confidence is an everyday process, Clendenin said.
“We stay hungry,” he said. “I can’t even explain how hungry we are. We want to get it, and we’re out there working hard every day.”
Turning confidence into results is all about a mindset, Bowen said.
The first four games of WKU’s season – beginning with Nebraska on Sept. 4 – will be challenging, but Bowen said a lot can be overcome with the right frame of mind.
“We have to get these kids to understand that giving up yards and letting teams have success against you is not acceptable,” he said. “Every time you go on the field, you have to go out there with that gunfighter mentality. Until they truly adopt that – that everything we do on defense has a zero margin of error – it’s going to become critical.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our guys that whoever they line up against, they’re going to be able to hold their own. We’ve given our kids money to play football too.”