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MSU defense scheming to improve
Return of nine starters will help Bears sustain fledgling 3-4 defense.
Last spring and fall was about learning – along with improving – as Missouri State’s football team implemented a new defensive scheme.
The progress was notable. The Bears allowed averages of 22.4 points and 351 yards after surrendering 35.5 and 470, respectively, the year before.
The next step is to work on more than simply the basics of the 3-4 alignment. That work is under way during spring practice.
“I hope that the coaches have confidence enough in us to put in some more things,” senior safety Derek Miller said.
“Hopefully, they’ll give us opportunities to do different things so opponents won’t know what’s coming.”
Defensive coordinator D.J. Vokolek said that might happen. Compared to a year ago, the difference is amazing, he said.
Of course, it helps that nine starters are returning.
“We’re a year into it now,” Vokolek said of the 3-4. “The terminology is familiar with our guys. The transition is easier and it allows us to move quicker. I think we can expand and, for example, change our pressure up a little bit.
“We also can do some different things coverage-wise. We can keep adding because we’ve done some of the same things so often now.”
The 3-4, which means three down linemen and four linebackers, puts an emphasis on speed.
In theory, that means added pressure on the quarterback and more forced turnovers. But the Bears’ 18 turnovers forced last season, while an improvement, was not a great total.
Outside linebacker Antoine Wilkinson, the team’s leader with 113 tackles last season, said “creative havoc” for opponents is a priority.
“We need to get more turnovers and make more plays,” Wilkinson said. “We need to get the ball back to our offense and get off the field on third down.
“I feel real comfortable in the defense. It’s easier than it was last year. We all know how it works and what to expect.”
Vokolek said he’s curious to see how some added wrinkles work out in a scrimmage Saturday.
“If it works, great,” he said. “If not, we’ll go back to our basics.”
Coach Terry Allen said the 10 a.m. scrimmage will be the biggest , in terms of plays run, prior to the Maroon and White game at 1 p.m. April 24.
The Bears have lost receiver Adrian Taylor for the remainder of spring ball after he broke a leg in practice on Wednesday.
Taylor is expected to be fully recovered by the start of training camp in August.
Missouri State’s football team will not have to play next season 2.83 short of its 63-scholarship limit.
The team used only 60 scholarships last season, thus retroactively meeting the penalty requirement associated with a loss of 2.83 scholarships for not meeting the minimum 925 score in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report.
The program will have to meet the progress outlined in an APR improvement plan.
By Lyndal Scranton