SCOUTING THE HERD: Outside linebackers 'veins and the heartbeat of the defense'

COREY STOLZENBACH | Staff File PhotoJunior Gavin Johnson (1) is among McAlester's outside linebacker group this season. 

Lester Young believes the outside linebackers are the most versatile part of a defense.

The first-year McAlester outside linebackers coach told his players they are the "veins and the heartbeat of the defense."

"We set it all up," Young said of the defensive unit.

The 1998 McAlester graduate and former inside linebacker for the Buffaloes said outside linebackers are the most versatile players on defense. Sometimes they play like defense end techniques, or are out on the opponent's No. 2 receiver. 

Young said the outside linebackers help against the pass, but focus on the run first.

The Buffs' defense has allowed 567 rushing yards in two games heading into Friday's scheduled game at Durant. 

Young said his outside linebackers must read their keys when it comes to stopping the run. He added they must be physical.

"If they get a down block or motion coming to them, they have got to be the one who sets the edge and be aggressive," he said.

There are four players that he feels good about at the outside linebacker position. 

Seniors Colby Squyres and Hayden Franks, as well as juniors Gavin Johnson and Ryan Shumway were the ones that he touted. He said freshman Dakota Moton has looked good, too.

Young said Johnson is primarily on the left side as a linebacker, while Squyres is on the right side. He said Franks is the third man for the Buffs, while Shumway is beside him. Young added junior Matthew Davey is McAlester's fifth man.

He said Franks and Shumway periodically get brought in one at a time as Squyres and Johnson are also receivers for the Buffs. 

Young thinks the Sept. 20 game at Ardmore getting cancelled positively affected his outside linebackers. He said they had a very good game Sept. 6 against Muskogee, but had trouble reading keys sometimes Sept. 13 at Poteau despite being ready to play. 

He said the Buffs worked hard every day and were ready to play against Ardmore, but said they were back at it on Monday. 

Young praised Squyres and Johnson after Monday's practice for flying to the football and being hard with their physicality. He added Franks and Shumway played and practiced hard on Monday, too.

He said every linebacker has his strengths. Young added that every linebacker he has is long, but said Johnson and Squyres are extra-long. 

Young said Johnson always has his head on a swivel and covers well, while Squyres is more direct, but is fast and is there immediately when he gets a read on a play.

"He's, overall, the most physical and the leader of our outside linebackers," he said of Squyres.  

The coach said the two of them can horizontally cover roughly 10 yards left and right from where they are standing at any given point.

Young said Franks is a hard hitter in between the tackles. He called Shumway a "beast" and thinks he is the most physical when attacking a block. 

The group will have at least six games left. The regular season finale is Nov. 8 at Bishop Kelley. 

He said the outside linebackers have their reads and keys cemented by the time the season is winding down. Young said it should be "routine" for them to bring pain on defense. 

"It should be 100 percent where those guys are completely acclimated to the system that we're coaching," Young said. 

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at cstolzenbach@mcalesternews.com 

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