One of the breakout position groups last season for the Red Wolves was the defensive backs. It seemed like they were making game-changing plays on a weekly basis. They led the country in interceptions and touchdowns, and it wasn’t just one guy doing it. Multiple guys in the defensive backfield contributed and got to wear the “Championship Belt.” They should be licking their chops heading into this season as they will get even more help from the front seven. A deep and talented defensive line should provide more pressure this season on opposing quarterbacks, leading to more chances for the corners and safeties to wear the belt. One of the two masterminds coaching the defensive backs is Coach Allen Johnson. AstateNation’s 5th Quarter Preseason series continues below with Coach Johnson.
1st Quarter: What gets you excited most in fall camp? – “I really love the challenge each season of coaching a new team. Even though you have some of the same players returning, guys you’ve worked with for a couple of years, it’s still a new team. When you look at it, we led the country in interceptions last season, but the season before we didn’t. Some of the same guys were on both teams, but it just shows you that every team is different. Last year’s team is gone and this year’s team still has to find its own identity and chemistry. So it feels like your first season coaching because it feels like you’re starting with a different team. You get back to the fundamentals and start at square one. You can’t ever assume that every guy is going to come back and be on point with everything. You have to start from scratch and get that foundation set before building. So that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting to me as a coach. That’s what keeps me coming back.”
2nd Quarter: What does this group of defensive backs need to do to try and reach that level of success again in turning the ball over this season? - “In order to reach that level again, they have to continue to increase their football I.Q. They know how hard they have to work physically to put themselves in a position to succeed, but it’s our job to make sure they put in the hard work mentally to reach that level again. You can’t use your physical talents to make plays if you haven’t succeeded mentally to put yourself in the right position during the play. So for our guys, and it’s a talented group, if we can continue to increase our football I.Q. then we can continue to make those big plays this season.”
3rd Quarter: Who in that talented group has really stepped up in camp and shown a lot of progress since spring ball ended? – “I have a 1A and a 1B group in a sense. With Money Hunter, Bo Sentimore, Cody Brown, and Chris Humes, those four guys I’ve been coaching for a while now. Money and Humes have been with me since we got here, and Cody and Bo for two years. Those are my guys back there that I know can make all of the calls and checks for me on the field. Even still, I think Money worked harder this summer at changing his body and increasing his football I.Q. Bo changed his body too. He’s been a great football player for us and he put in the work to change himself physically for this season. Freshman B.J. Edmonds has been a pleasant surprise in how he’s been able to come in and pick up the defense as a true freshman. I think Justin Clifton is a guy that is just a solid football player for us who has always performed well for us and I expect him to be even better. He is somebody I’m looking for to do big things. Overall, that’s what I like about my group. Nobody is ever satisfied. They know they can always get better and as a coach, that gets you excited.”
4th Quarter: You mentioned how some of your guys have been with you since you arrived in Jonesboro. How much does that help you coach in terms of communication and expectations? – “It’s a tremendous help in every way. I was in a meeting with Coach Cauthen, and I told him that in my 18 years of coaching, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a group of players that communicate as much and communicate the correct things like this group does. I feel like they talk like me out there on the field. The same things I say, I hear them saying. I hear them coaching the underclassmen in the same way I coach them. That’s what’s so great about growing with a group of guys. You see them grow up as players and they become an extension of you out there on the field. It also gives more the opportunity to challenge them more every day. I can put more on them every day because they can handle it. We’re speaking the same language now, where in the beginning they were learning how to speak our language on defense. It makes me have to up my game too and that’s a great problem to have.”
Overtime: What was your favorite part of the summer break? – “My favorite part was taking a cruise to the Bahamas. It’s a place I’d always wanted to go and had a chance to do it this summer. It was so beautiful and amazing. But when I go to new places and leave this country, it always reminds me how great our country is and it’s good to be reminded of that. I just loved relaxing this summer and reflecting on last season and enjoying our blessings. I’m blessed and I’m grateful for where I live and where I get to work every day.”
We would like to thank Coach Johnson for his time with the 5th Quarter. We will catch up soon with Coach Buster Faulkner and Trooper Taylor after the season begins. Look for more editions of the 5th Quarter this season with Head Coach Blake Anderson every week.