With an offense that features plenty of big-play potential, it’s easy for the Lufkin Panthers’ defense to get lost in the shuffle. However, by the time the 2016 season is in the books, it could be that defense that tells the story for the Panthers.
Lufkin will return five starters and several others with plenty of experience off a team that allowed 23.2 points per game last season. If the Panthers can improve on that total, they will be quite a force in their move back up to 6A.
“As a defense, you have to take pride in keeping teams out of the end zone,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. “We have to be good on that side of the ball.”
The Panthers have plenty of returning experience both in the linebacking corps and in the secondary. Those two areas will be vital with Lufkin building a defensive line that is relatively inexperienced.
Possibly Lufkin’s biggest playmaker on defense is Savon Fields, who also made several big plays on special teams last season.
JaBrian Grimes will join him at the safety position.
Jeremiah Davis and Za’Courtney Deason are two of the playmakers at cornerback.
The Panthers also have returning experience at linebacker, led by the return of Ariel Olvera. Torrand Grisby and Isaiah Phillips are two other linebackers to keep an eye on.
“Having all those guys back both at linebacker and in the secondary is big,” Quick said. “The second-level guys have to be able to make tackles back there. That’s a good thing to have so we can have time to figure out the front four.”
The Panthers have plenty of talented options on the defensive line, although most of them are relatively inexperienced.
Jackson Sorrell and Jadrian Taylor are two of the options at defensive end.
“Jackson is a big tall kid that has a good get off,” Quick said. “Jadrian had a lot of playing time as a junior last year.
On the inside, Jamal Arthur is expected to see time at tackle after spending last season on the offensive line. March Thomas is expected to see time at nose guard.
If the Panthers can solidify that defensive line, they should be quite a force when the season starts.
“We have to put everything together,” Quick said. “We have guys that can play there, but they have to show they can do it at this level.”