‘Dogs’ developing defense on display in spring game

By ROB LUDWIG / Corsicana Sun

— After watching Southwest Junior College Football Conference offenses race up and down the field and making scoreboards into pinball machines, Navarro College football Coach Cody Crill may be comforted to see what appears to be an especially good defense brewing during spring practice.

With several starters or key contributors returning for 2016, the Bulldog defense is developing into what could be a special unit for Defensive Coordinator Scott Joseph.

We’ve been really good this spring on the defensive side of the ball,” Crill said after the Bulldogs concluded spring workouts Thursday. “Some guys have been here for two years already and have redshirted while still learning the system and progressing individually. Others played significant time last fall. Together, they are becoming a very good defense.”

The linebacking corps is especially impressive. Returners David Orr and sack machine Ty Thomas join converted defensive back Tavares Thomas, Dee Spencer and James David in Navarro’s multiple defensive scheme. Nebraska transfer Adrienne Talan is providing depth along Navarro’s defensive front.

“It’s exciting because our defense looks awesome,” Crill said. “There is still a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a framework of something really good.”

The Bulldogs have had to play without starting quarterback Devlin Isadore the last two weeks after he strained his MCL ligament during practice. Starting running back Maurice Gordon has also been felled by injury. Warren Flye, who came on at the end of 2015 to be a pivotal slot receiver, was a standout early in the spring before sustaining a torn ACL in is knee.

Veteran backup Kenneth Arthur has filled in for Isadore. Sophomore Mori Evans (6-0, 230) is one of collection of backs running the ball, though Evans has stood out as a force both running and blocking because of his large frame.

One intriguing area for the Bulldogs is the offensive line, which lost most of its starters from a year ago. In their place is a mammoth group, led by sophomore guard GeWhite Stallworth (6-8, 300), redshirt Deon Sheppard (6-5, 270) and mid-year transfer Levin Livingston (6-7, 240). Stallworth has moved inside the guard and Washington D.C.’s Livingston, though reed-thin, has made remarkable progress this spring and will anchor the line at one of the tackle positions.

“Our center got hurt, but the rest of the offensive line has performed well,” Crill said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who are hungry and ready to work every day and it shows on the practice field.”

After losing in the SWJCFC title game to Kilgore last fall, the Bulldogs were looking to the spring as a time of regroup and focus on a difficult early schedule that features Georgia Military and Trinity Valley the first two weeks. Mission accomplished, says their coach.

“We got a lot of things accomplished this spring,” Crill said. “Of course, there are a lot of things we still wish we could work on, but I think we’re in a good place right now. Some players have made huge strides and some units have gotten a lot better as a whole. It’s going to be an exciting fall.”