The Buff defense is starting to take shape
Hunter Hughes reputation for being one of the top defensive coaches in college football at any level proceeds him.
Hughes’ defense was the backbone of Colorado State-Pueblo’s run to the 2014 NCAA Division II national championship.
His hard-nosed defensive imprint has now molded well to form since taking over West Texas A&M.
Hughes is entering his third season, and though his offense has yet to take shape, his defense is another story.
The numbers may not show it. The Buffs sat seventh in the Lone Star Conference in total defense a year ago. What the numbers don’t show, is how often the Buff D kept the team in ball games.
Former defensive coordinator Miles Kochevar left last winter, which prompted Hughes to swiftly find a new defensive coordinator. Hughes hired former Fort Lewis College head coach Joe Morris. Morris enters his first season as DC after the past six seasons at Fort Lewis. including two seasons as the head coach.
In 2018, Morris coached seven All-RMAC players including Suli Tukumoeatu, whose three fumble recoveries were the 10th most in the nation.
Hughes, former defensive coordinator Miles Kochevar, and now new defensive coordinator, Morris, have worked extremely hard recruiting their kind of defensive players. All three coaches want versatile, well rounded athletes that fit their scheme. With that being said, Hughes is adamant that it takes all 11 guys doing their certain assignment. Not one player trying to make every play.
“A lot of these guys are in year three of what we’re doing,” Hughes said. “They understand where their help is and where to be. We don’t need guys out there being Superman. We need Clark Kent’s. Just go to work, and do your job. We don’t need heroes.”
Defensive line and assistant head coach J.T. Haddan has build depth and experience on the defensive line. Senior Gerred Johnson is the staple up front. Johnson, an all-LSC honorable mention last season, is in his third year as a starter. The 6-foot-2, 220 pound captain has played in 33 career games at WT. Johnson led the Buffs with 12.5 tackles for a loss in 2018.
Joining Johnson is redshirt freshman Dillon Mata, Cleon Jackson, Prairie View A&M transfer Nathan Foreman and senior Joseph Radke.
Seeing senior safety Chazz Slatininzky is a welcoming sight to the WT players, the coaching staff and university in general. Slatinzky hasn’t played in a game since suffering a major leg injury against Eastern New Mexico in Oct. of 2017. Slatinzky a team leader and captain of the secondary. His positive attitude is contagious to safety LaDarian Hudson as well as cornerbacks Tobias Harris, Kemoine Davis, Mike Jones and Malik Diop.
Linebacker Eric Collins has started in all 22 games of his college career. During his first two seasons, the 6-foot-3, 195 pound junior has combined to make 133 tackles, 77 of which came last year.
He’s added 14.5 tackles for a loss, and was an All second-team LSC selection last season.