When the ULM football team opens camp on Aug. 5, players on the defensive side have the chance to report with a clean slate.
Troy Reffett, who begins his first season as both defensive coordinator and linebackers coach after five years at New Mexico, is installing a 3-3-5 attack. Reffett said he's trying to form opinions of players based on his own observations.
"The scheme we're running is different than last year and I don't want to have a bias toward any player, whether it be good or bad," Reffett said. "I've watched just enough (game footage) to be able to place guys in positions, but not to evaluate them so much."
Reffett replaced Manny Michel and Phil Elmassian, who were fired after a one-year stint as dual coordinators after the 2008 campaign. One of three new defensive coaches at ULM, Reffett will be assisted by Mark Collins (safeties) and Everett Todd (defensive line). Darrell Perkins returns to coach cornerbacks.
Reffett got his first look at the Warhawks in spring ball. But even then, many of the frontline players weren't on the field.
"Otis Stamps got limited action; James Truxillo got limited action," Reffett said. "Alex Ibe went down in the third practice and he was running with the ones. Greg James wasn't there at all. Jameson Jordan and Cardia Jackson didn't go through spring at all. Ken Dorsey hadn't been back.
"There are, from what I'm told, seven or eight guys who have played football here that this team has depended upon, that didn't go through spring ball. We're going to go out there in the fall, and if they're all healthy, have a new lineup to some extent."
Among those expected back in action next month, All-Sun Belt linebacker Cardia Jackson missed the spring with a shoulder injury.
"I had torn cartilage in my shoulder," Jackson said. "But I'm back on track. I've got to get my strength back up a little more. But pretty much, everything is going well."Jackson said he's itching to return to the field to begin preparing for his senior season.
"We've had more participation from last summer," Jackson said. "We've had more guys here and ready and excited about the new defense. They'll get in and do what they have to do, in and out of the weight room and take care of their business. That's what it's all about."
ULM has plenty of room for improvement on defense after allowing 31.2 points (sixth in the Sun Belt) and 444.7 yards (seventh in the SBC) per game in 2008. The Warhawks managed just 13 sacks. By contrast, league-leader Troy had 37.
Reffett's scheme, with players coming from all directions, is designed to create more havoc. But there's still plenty of teaching to be done before opening at Texas on Sept. 5.
"When we came in here, we had coaching changes up until the week right before spring ball, so a lot of it was coaching on the fly," Reffett said. "These guys were learning some of it on the fly. We'll go back, almost to some extent schematically, start from scratch with the defensive staff because now we'll have a little more time to get into some of the intricacies of the defense. We'll watch a little more film and put it into play against Texas some of our opponents. You pick up where you left off, but you go a little deeper."