There were times when Newton’s offense had to play pick-me-up for the Rams’ defense in 2016.
During the first five games of the season, while Newton’s offense was humming along at a 33-points-per-game clip, the defense gave up a little over 31 points per contest within that same span.
Although Newton compiled a record of 3-1-1 during that stretch, their only loss coming by 8 on the road against a Lowndes team which played deep into November and put up 92 points on Hillgrove in a first round playoff matchup, you never would like to see the defense give up that much.
With a reloaded offense headed into this season, led once again by Middlebrooks, Banks is also looking to his defense to cash in on opportunities to be great, and it all starts with the identity of being what, “the most physical team on the planet.”
“We have honed in on running to the ball and not loafing,” said Banks, “When all 11 converge on the ball, that’s when all the luck and good things happen turnover wise.”
Recent Navy defensive back commit Jaison Taylor as well as Clemson defensive line pledge Darnell Jefferies are two of the bigger names on the Rams’ defensive roster. However, 6-foot-2, 270 pound offensive and defensive lineman Jordan Reed will be entering his fourth year as a starter.
Reed comes from a prestigious Newton football, lineage as, he’s related to former Minnesota Vikings receiver and Newton grad, Willie ‘Jake’ Reed, as well as former Pro Bowl defensive back and University of Tennessee All-American, Dale Carter.
“I think (Reed) will have a massively explosive year along with Darnell (Jefferies),” said Banks, “He’ll be a key anchor to our defense.” Another Newton defender who is primed to burst onto the scene is junior linebacker Cozbi Craig, who Banks refers to as, “the next big defensive stud.”
Craig won’t just be playing in a traditional linebacker role, he’ll be tasked with being involved at all three levels of the defense, and his speed versatility allow him to do this well. Banks expects his prototype linebacker to thrive in the same role that former Newton standout Jaquan Henderson dominated in during his career at Newton.
“I think he can do a lot of the thing Jaquan did, so we’re very excited about him as well,” said Banks. That’s immaculate praise and expectations considering the success that Henderson had which eventually would land him at Georgia Tech.
The Newton program is very excited about the direction of the team heading into this season and they expect great things in all phases of the game.
“The intensity level has been taken up a notch as a whole,” said Banks.
There’s no doubt that the Newton offense can put up points in a hurry and often times at will, but Newton is looking for the same level of energy and efficiency out of their defense. After all, defense does indeed win championships when it comes down to it.
NEWTON RAMS RUNDOWN
Returning Starters: 7 total on offense, including quarterback Myron Middlebrooks, running backs Nuru Tinch and Adarius Thomas and virtually the entire offensive line. On defense, notables like Darnell Jefferies, Jaison Taylor, Cozbi Craig and Elija Godwin.
Key Departures: J.J. Holloman, Jaquan Henderson, Deonta Clark, Robert Black, IV, Jeremiah Bundrage and Dante Johnson.
When On Offense: Newton will run a variation of a shotgun spread, but with more tools and flexibility at its disposal. That’s because Middlebrooks, a senior, is not only bigger, faster and stronger, but also smarter with a year of starting experience under his belt. Because of that, he’s been given extend play calling responsibilities. A strong rushing game with Tinch and Thomas running behind what coach Terrance Banks calls, “potentially the best offensive line we’ve had since I’ve been here,” could be punishing.
When On Defense: Banks and company will employ a “multiple 50” look that will seek to take advantage of a solid front seven that has potential star power with Jefferies up front. Linebacker Cozbi Craig looks like an emerging star. And the secondary is stacked. Banks wants to attack with that size and speed in order to create multiple turnovers.
When On Special Teams: With so much speed on the roster to choose from, the return game will be strong for the Rams. Godwin broke loose several times last season, including a 95 yard kickoff return against rival Eastside.
CoachSpeak: “Hands down, we want to be the most physical team in the state. No, scratch that. We want to be the most physical team on the planet. With no disrespect to the guys who’ll read this, I think this can be our best offensive and defensive line team, and we want to capitalize on that strength.”