Sports

Houston County defense makes changes to be more aggressive

WARNER ROBINS — There is no doubt that the Houston County Bears will look different on defense this year. Gone are the days of linebackers sitting back and getting a read on the play before making a move.

Head Coach Greg Robinson and defensive coordinator Rex Hodges have returned to their roots, which is the “40” defense. The scheme allows players to move around and attack the football instead of reading and reacting.

It has Robinson very excited about what his defense, led by senior linebacker Jalani Phillips, is capable of doing this year.

“I am very comfortable with changing to the ‘40,’ ” said Robinson, who is in his second year as the head coach at Houston County. “I learned a lot of the ‘40’ from John Peacock at Dodge County. When I was the offensive coordinator at Dodge, I had to practice against it every day, and it made me a fan. It takes away some of the thinking on defense and allow the kids to be aggressive. The scheme relies on movement and stunting, and I think it is an excellent fit for this football team.”

Phillips, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior, will be one of the keys to the defense.

“Jalani is a very good athlete,” Robinson said. “Even as big as he is, he could still play strong safety if we needed him to. We want him in the middle of everything we are doing. He will not set up and be a read linebacker anymore. We will count on him to use his natural ability to make plays.

“This is the first year playing in this scheme, and it could take some time for him to get used to it, but we need for him to step up and be the player we know he can be. He has the tools to be a great player.”

Phillips has been encouraged by the new-look defense.

“I love it,” said Phillips, who is being recruited by Auburn, Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee among others. “It’s a good run stopping defense. Everyone has done a great job learning the basics, and I think that we can get something going this year. I love being able to hit people.”

Phillips, who moves to linebacker from safety this year, thinks that the Bears will be a much better football team. Houston County opens up Saturday night against Groves.

“Everyone is working hard,” Phillips said. “The seniors have really picked it up, and I think we are way better than last year. This whole team works very hard. We have had a year with this coaching staff, and that’s also a great help. We definitely expect to win more than three games this year.”

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