Mercer’s defense is all about creating chaos this season

Lee Bennett, left, and LeMarkus Bailey go over strategy at Mercer’s practice Wednesday.
Lee Bennett, left, and LeMarkus Bailey go over strategy at Mercer’s practice Wednesday.

Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb wasn’t exactly sure how the nickname originated.

But he likes what it has meant for his defense.

The Bears’ defenders started calling themselves the “Legion of Chaos” — or “LOC” for short — this summer, and they certainly have lived up to that moniker.

Mercer leads the Southern Conference in turnover ratio and turnovers forced and ranks fifth in the nation in turnovers forced. The Bears, who have won two straight games, host Chattanooga on Saturday.

“They call themselves the ‘L.O.C.’…the ‘Legion of Chaos,’ and they’re chaotic, man,” Lamb said. “They fly to the ball, and they really enjoy playing with each other. It is a really close-nit bunch. There’s a sense of excitement on the sidelines when they’re on the field. You talk about a lot of those back-end guys, but we really had to control the line of scrimmage. I thought Isaiah Buehler and Dorian Kithcart played well up front as always (Saturday against The Citadel). It all starts up front, but those guys out back really fly to the ball and make plays.”

Mercer forced four turnovers against The Citadel to raise its total to 15 for the season. The Bears have recovered nine fumbles and picked off six passes.

Wofford, Samford, The Citadel and Furman are tied for second in the conference with 10 forced turnovers. Mercer is tied with Wofford for the conference lead with a plus-six turnover ratio.

“Yes, that is definitely what we are trying to do,” Mercer defensive back Eric Jackson said forcing turnovers. “We preach that a lot in the defensive room; the ball is always the issue. So any chance we get to step on the field we’re trying to get the ball back into our offense’s hands because we want to score points. We want to get the ball back in their hands because that’s what they specialize in.”

But about the nickname?

“It started over the summer during workouts in player-led practices, and we just came up with something that would get the whole team going,” Jackson said. “We came up with ‘Legion of Chaos,’ and we just rolled with it. It was something that LeMarkus (Bailey), Lee Bennett and I came up with. It was just fun.”

And it has been accurate.

Mercer leads the conference in scoring defense, allowing 18.8 points per game. The Bears are third in the conference in total defense, allowing 351.8 yards per game.

Mercer has recovered from a three-game losing streak to beat VMI and The Citadel to get back to .500 at 3-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play. Chattanooga is 1-5 and 0-2.

Bennett, who set the Mercer career record with his sixth career fumble recovery Saturday, leads the conference with 37 tackles and four forced fumbles.

“It definitely gives us a sense of confidence, but it just makes us want to keep working harder because we want people to know that when they play us they’re going to have to deal with our defense,” Jackson said. “We come in every week knowing that every team is a challenge regardless of who it is. We feel like we’re going to come in ,and we’re going to work hard and we’re going to try to do what we need to do to make plays on defense.”