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SOU Defense Coming Together as Spring Game Nears





Football
5/1/2012
 

ASHLAND – The Southern Oregon
defense has focused on filling holes and improving depth throughout spring
practice, and the coaching staff expects those improvements to show in Friday's
Spring Game and in the 2012 season.

Southern Oregon lost its top two
tacklers from last season to graduation, along with several other key players
from a 2011 squad that struggled at times. The Raider defense gave up 34.4
points per game last season, with opponents tallying at least 50 points four
times.

With the final week of spring practice winding down to the annual
Red vs. Black Spring Game, defensive coordinator Matt Toblin believes the Raiders'
experience and talent will help push the defense forward in the second year
under head coach Craig Howard. The defense will have a
chance to show its improvements against the up-tempo Raider offense at 6 p.m. on
Friday at Raider Stadium.

“We're really excited about the defense this
year,” Toblin said. “We've made a lot of progress this spring. As we go,
competing against our offense obviously makes us better, and getting used to the
pace of play has been good.”

The Raider offense returns numerous key
players from the various skill positions, giving the offensive coaches the
chance to really push the tempo in practice as they look to speed up the pace in
2012. That experience will pay off for the SOU defense, Toblin
said.

“It's been good for us to have to line up and think faster than
most defenses have ever had to think, because they're running the next play
before we can even get the call in at times,” Toblin said. “We've calmed down in
terms of dealing with tempo, and we've really started to execute. The new guys
have started to really fit in and meld into what we want to do.”

Toblin
praised the leadership of a strong senior class, led by Kalii Robinson (Los Angeles,
Calif./Dorsey) and Juwuan Brown (Long Beach, Calif./Long
Beach Poly). He credited the seniors with leading “not only on and off the
field in terms of what they do, but helping everybody else kind of fit into the
program and set an example for what we expect.”

The secondary looks to be
much improved going into the Spring Game, with four returners leading the way.
Josh Leff (San Clemente, Calif./San
Clemente) and Dustin Fretwell (El Dorado Hills,
Calif./Oakridge) are set to start in the two cornerback slots, with
Heston Altenbach (Coquille,
Ore./Coquille) starting at free safety. Brandon Grissom (Medford, Ore./Eagle
Point) returns to the field after missing the 2011 season with a broken
hand.

“Getting Brandon back from a broken hand and getting him into the
defense, you can see the difference in terms of the physicality that he brings
to our secondary as our strong safety,” Toblin said.

Incoming players
will always play a major role in 2012 as the Raiders look to fill the holes left
by departing seniors. Toblin highlighted the work of Derek Goetting () and Mike Bibbie,
saying they've “done a great job of starting to learn what we do and what we ask
of guys.”

“A lot of newcomers have fit in and started to learn to play
defense our way,” Toblin said. “They have to learn how to play football the
Raider Way.”
Each week has brought the team closer to what fans can expect to
see Friday night, with the Sept. 1 season opener in Medford looming four months
down the road. Toblin has been encouraged by the team's development, but he
knows the defense is far from a finished product.

“In the end, we feel
like we've made progress every single day,” Toblin said. “Last scrimmage we felt
like we played pretty well, but we've still got some room for improvement.
Hopefully over the next few practices we'll continue to get better, and by the
time we hit the Spring Game we're clicking on all cylinders ready to go in the
offseason program.” SOU Defense Coming Together as Spring Game Nears

Tuesday, May 1 2012, 07:04 PM CDT

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