Those who attend North Greenville football games next season will find something the Crusaders have in common with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and it’s not hardware, yet.
New head coach Jamey Chadwell said at the press conference announcing his hiring that he would like to see the Crusaders utilize a mainly 3-4 defensive formation. For the uninitiated, the 3-4 means NGU’s standard set will include three defensive linemen and four linebackers, as opposed to vice versa in most defenses.
Current players are taking the change in perfect stride. Division II All-American defensive end Andre Bernardi, senior sport management, has been an integral part of the defense. Other key returnees on defense are First Team All-ICAA defensive back Xavier Boykins and Nick Rosamonda, who earned All-ICAA second team honors at linebacker. The defensive side of the ball also returns 8 starters.
“We never ran the 3-4 here, but we could handle it,” Bernardi said.
Defensive lineman Johnell Bell, business administration, has had previous experience with the 3-4 and believes Chadwell has the right pieces in place.
“Everything is set up pretty nice,” Bell said. “I don’t have a problem with it.”
While the 4-3 is usually the standard in football and is considered to be easier to plug holes in the running game, the 3-4 has a fearsome reputation. It can better utilize speed and has more blitzing options.
“You obviously have three guys coming, but the quarterback doesn’t know where anyone else is coming from, or you can drop back in coverage,” Bernardi said.
Bernardi, who has racked up 28.5 sacks in three years at NGU, believes the new system will allow him to make more plays in the backfield. He also said he will be mixing up his approach by alternating standing up and taking a more traditional three-point stance.
“Anytime you mix up the offense with blitzes, you’ll get to the quarterback. I’m okay with that,” Bernardi said.
Chadwell also cites the 3-4 to be easier to recruit, because he will only have to worry about getting three starting linemen instead of four.
The players are also quick to note that they will also have to put forth their own effort for the cause.
“He’s going to make us work hard,” Bell said. “He has his system, and he believes in it.”
“He came in and right away said, ‘Everybody sit up straight. Eyes on me,’” Bernardi said.
That does not seem to have fazed anyone though. It actually seems to have won them over.
“He’s big on getting the little things right,” Bell said. “He’s really into details, and I like that.”
With spring practice starting next month, the defensive front will have time to adjust, but that has not kept Chadwell from already being optimistic about the future.
“I’m excited about the opportunity. It’s going to be a tough job,” Chadwell said. “But I feel with the vision and plan I have for this football team, I think we can make it happen.”