There will be several new faces making plays in 2017 for the Fort Hays State University defense.
But not much else has changed for a program that surrendered just 21.3 points and 363.6 yards per game in an 8-4 campaign.
It just means someone else has the opportunity to step up and make their names known — much like guys such as Alex Schmidterger, Sie Doe Jr., Justin McPhail, DeAndre James and Raheeme Dumas did in years past. Those are the biggest names that will have to be replaced in 2017.
“Everyone’s going to step up to the plate when their name’s called,” said junior bandit back Doyin Jibowu, one of three on the Tiger defense who started all 12 games a year ago.
And there will be several new names to call in the 4-4 look under coordinator Cooper Harris, and still some vying for some spots in the lineup, particularly at inside linebacker and the corners — four positions that combine for just nine starts from a year ago.
All of those belong to junior Jose Delgado, a Derby product.
“It’s a little different,” Delgado said of being the most experienced guy in the middle. “I always let (Schmidtberger) and McPhail call everything. Now I know the call, I know how to line up the D-line.
“I can push someone to the right spots. I think I’ve adjusted pretty well,” he added.
That leadership role, after spending two seasons playing behind the likes of the aforementioned linebackers, is something Delgado has welcomed. Delgado made 114 tackles a season ago — second best on the team after making nine starts. He also had 8.5 tackles for loss.
“I like having some authority out there, being able to kill calls and move people around, put myself in better position — and them too.”
He’ll have to help a young group along as he looks to start opposite Goodland sophomore Kolt Trachsel.
At the corners will be two new starters in senior Kamon Clayton and junior Aquil Knowles.
“Lot of new faces,” FHSU head coach Chris Brown said. “But I’m excited to see those guys get out and perform.”
There won’t be, however, anything new on the defensive line, other than finding a nearly unmatchable presence to replace Doe Jr., the former all-MIAA performer who recorded a program record 15 sacks a year ago. Seniors Luke Wright and Nathan Shepherd, along with junior Wyatt Parker, return across the front, along with what appears to be a battle at the other end between Sterling Swopes, a redshirt freshman from Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Sheldon Schmidt, a sophomore from La Crosse.
The Tiger defense gave up just 161.3 rushing yards per game a season ago and recorded 33 sacks.
The Tiger defense, Jibowu said, has improved since Day 1 of camp, despite the learning curve.
“There’s a lot more confidence, a lot more communication,” he said. “Day 1, it’s kind of quiet out there. No one is talking.
“Now, it’s loud out there, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.”