Eastern defense becoming a swarm


Jason Howell

Red-shirt junior running back Devin Church had 32 rushing yards and 65 receiving yards during the Panthers’ 51-20 Homecoming win over Tennessee Tech on Saturday at O’Brien Field.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern defense has allowed a total of 42 points in the last two games, which includes wins over Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.  As of this week it is the No. 1 passing defense in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack brought a new defensive system from Mississippi two years ago, which he calls “The Swarm.” People familiar with Ole Miss football would recognize it as the “Landshark” defense, but Wommack is not ready to make that claim yet.

“Swarm defense is what we believe in and call ourselves,” Wommack said. “You can call yourself the ‘Landsharks’ or the ‘Swarm Defense,’ or whatever you want to, but you’ve got to get young men to buy in to whatever it is that you’re selling.”

Wommack believes the Panthers are buying into the system, especially after the forcing seven turnovers in last week’s 51-20 win over Tennessee Tech.

Coach Kim Dameron said he was a little frustrated because the Panthers only scored 10 points off three turnovers in the first quarter, but was pleased with their effort in the second half.

Dameron said that the defensive secondary, including the linebackers, have disciplined eyes and don’t bite on play action fakes very often. Also there is very rarely a play when it’s just one guy executing it.

Good pressure by the defensive line resulted in four interceptions, including one by red-shirt senior safety Jourdan Wickliffe, who has two picks in the last two weeks.

“When everybody’s on the same page and doing what they’re supposed to do, it makes it so much easier,” Wickliffe said. “The line’s getting pressure, corners like Antoine Johnson and Dylan Chatman are playing great defenses on the edges and it makes the safeties’ job easier.”

Wickliffe said that the talent of the Panthers’ defense fits perfectly with the coaching, and when you combine talent with great coaching the sky’s the limit.

However, Wommack believes that the recent victories have been because of execution rather than scheme.

“It gives people freedom to put speed on the field, but at the same time there are also disciplinary things we have to get better at,” Wommack said. “We’re starting to see the fruit of that labor.”

Eastern’s passing defense has forced opponents to average of just 147 yards, and leads all teams with eight interceptions.

“There’s very rarely a play where it’s just one guy,” Dameron said. I can’t say enough good things about our defense.”

The defensive line has also played a role in the “Swarm” defense. Because of defensive tackles like red-shirt senior Dino Fanti and red-shirt junior transfer Jarvis Williams, as well as senior defensive end Thomas Coronado, two Panthers are ranked in the OVC’s Top Five in tackles for loss.

Senior linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is second with eight tackles, while Fanti has 5/1/2 and ranks fourth in the conference.

“Coach always has us prepared, both physically and mentally,” Williams said. “If we focus on ourselves, we can go play our hearts out.”

The Panthers’ defense will be tested in the next two weeks, as they host two of the OVC’s best offenses. This Saturday at Murray State Eastern will be playing against the No. 1 passing offense in the conference. The Racers have 372.8 yards per game.

A week later the No. 1 team in the nation, Jacksonville State comes to Charleston, in a matchup that could feature two unbeaten OVC teams. The Gamecocks have the No. 1 total offense in the league, averaging 544.2 yards per game.

Williams said it doesn’t matter who they play at O’Brien Field because they will always be ready.

“Whether it’s No. 1 or No. 2, when you come into this house we’re going to be ready to play,” Williams said. “Trust me.”


Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]