Taco Charlton was one of the most improved defenders of the season last year, finishing out his freshman campaign as a key subs on passing downs. Now he is charged with stepping his game up to another level as Brennen Beyer’s backup. Thus far in practice he has shown signs of being up for the task.
“It’s going real well,” he said. “They’re pushing us hard, making us having a hard camp, pushing us to the limit. It is going to prepare us for the game and make everything easy for us, so it is going real well.”
“I’m a lot better this year than last year. Last year with the playbook I was still going crazy. I was trying to think while I’m trying to play. The game was too fast and everything like that. This year, the game slowed down. It is basically how good can I play and that’s easy to me. Just being out there playing football which comes easy to me.”
Now at 275 pounds, holding up at the point of attack is a lot easier as well. Last year he was a designated rusher, and while he’ll still be counted on for his ability to get after the quarterback, his 20 pound advantage over Beyer cause for him to be called upon for run-stopping duties. That means no more being pushed inside as a 3-tech.
“Maybe a couple of times if they need me there, but most of the time I’m probably going to be pushed to the outside where I naturally play and where I can use my speed to my advantage,” he said. “I can definitely use my size too.”
For Charlton the biggest improvement has been with his motor. Always known as a player with immense physical tools, the former Pickerington Central star was often knocked for inconsistent effort. He insists that such a tag is no longer warranted.
“They’ve been pushing me to it every day, making sure that I’m constantly going, constantly moving, never walk at any time,” said Charlton. “When I fall, get up! Whatever it is they want me to move 100 miles per hour. Even when I have those great plays, they want to see me go back to the ball and then do it again and stuff like that. They’re definitely pushing me to have that motor constantly, 24/7.”
The “they” he spoke of doesn’t just consist of coaches. His teammates are encouraging him as well. It’s an aspect of the team that is much more pronounced after last season’s disappointing outcome.
“We had a lot of team bonding exercises and stuff like that,” Charlton said. “We got to know each other a lot better. We’re closer to each other and talk to each other, everything like that. It is basically a family atmosphere with us around here.”
That has really galvanized a defense that had already been energized by Greg Mattison’s change in approach. The Wolverines are going to be on the attack in 2014, and the defensive front is expected to lead the way.
“We’ve got a different mindset,” Charlton stated. “We want to hit there and get to the ball. We’re trying to make plays. We don’t want to rely on anybody else. We’ve got great people back with the linebackers and the corners, but we want to be able to get to the ball ourselves and make the plays.”
If practice is any indicator of their progress on that front… so far, so good.