Linebacking corps, secondary strong for WIU defense

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Jake Thompson

Redshirt sophomore cornerback Xavier Rowe is one of many impact players in the secondary for Western.

Adam Feiner

Experienced, talented, deep, and cohesive are all words that perfectly describe the Western Illinois linebacking corps and secondary. An even better word: loaded.

The Leathernecks return every linebacker from last season. Riggs Baxter, Brett Taylor and Adam Brott will start, but there is depth at the position in guys like Quentin Moon and Justin Corbett.

“I was blessed to get an experienced group,” said new linebackers coach Garry Fisher. “They all have great work ethics. All of them stand out. The expectations areset high.”

“We want to not only be the best linebacking corps in the conference, but in the nation as well,” Brott said. “Stopping the run is the first thing we have to do. We want to let other teams know they can’t run on us.”

“We want to be the hardest working position group on the team,” Taylor said. “We have to be the leaders of the defense by being the most vocal in getting guys in the right positions.”

The most notable of the group is the Macomb native, Taylor. He was selected to the Preseason First Team All-MVFC team and the Preseason Third Team All America team. The expectations are high for the hometown kid, but he says he won’t have to do anything out of the ordinary to be successful.

“I only have to do my one-eleventh by trusting that everyone is going to do their job,” Taylor said. “We want to play hard, fast and outwork the other team.”

He may be new to the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but Fisher knows what his unit must do to help win games.

“Stop the run by being aggressive and flowing downhill,” he said. “In this conference you have to stop the run to be successful on defense.”

If the Leathernecks are successful in shutting down opposing run games, the secondary will be challenged even more. That may put them in a position to improve upon this season’s biggest point of emphasis.

“Takeaways are big for us,” junior strong safety Aaron Diggs said. “Those change games.”

“There’s a big emphasis on turnovers,” redshirt sophomore cornerback Xavier Rowe added. “We have more older guys this year, so we have to make the plays we didn’t last year that cost us. The difference is our experience.”

With so much experience and depth in the back seven, new defensive coordinator David Elson will have plenty of guys to swarm opposing offenses.

“The two biggest things we’ve talked about is the two Cs: concentration and communication,” Elson said. “If we do a good job of those two concepts, our execution will be better. Also, we want to swarm to the ball. We want people to say, ‘Wow, look how hard those guys play.’ We want that to be different about us from every other team.”

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