The title of defensive coordinator for the McNeese State Cowboys football team comes with a lot of pressure and the highest of expectations.
Former head coach/defensive coordinator Lance Guidry gave up the defensive duties for one season and was so displeased with the results that he retook control of the defense.
Now, Guidry is gone and so is the famed Defense With Attitude moniker that had been a staple of the defenses for years.
But it doesn’t mean that, under first-year Cowboys defensive coordinator Jim Gush, that the defense isn’t going to play with attitude.
It also doesn’t mean that Gush isn’t trying to embrace the past when it comes to having a strong defense in blue and gold.
“Before you take any job, you do your research and study it,” Gush said at McNeese’s media on Sunday. “That was a plus coming in here. I wanted to come to a place that has a chance to win.”
But Gush also admitted he wants both sides of the ball to be equally great.
“But bottom line, in everything, the teams that are known for one side of the ball or the other, aren’t usually the greatest teams,” he said. “I want my defense to be one of the best in the country. But number one, I want our team to win games, because that what it’s all about. I think you build on your tradition, but you also try to cultivate that team mentality and do well in all three phases of the game.”
In fall practice, the defense has lived up to its end of the bargain. While it’s generally expected that defenses are ahead of offenses during training camp, or at least early on, Gush has made sure that his side of the ball has held up against the up-tempo spread offense run by first-year head coach Sterlin Gilbert.
In last Saturday’s scrimmage — the first of fall camp — the offense struck with a long touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Orgeron to wide receiver Trevor Begue. But the defense responded by holding the offense out of the end zone for the next 12 drives, eight of which included three-and-outs. The pass rush collected eight sacks, four of which came from senior defensive end Chris Livings. The defense added 11 tackles for loss, nine pass break-ups, two interceptions and Cody Roscoe forced an Orgeron fumble on a strip sack that he scored a touchdown on.
Going into today’s scrimmage, which, according to a McNeese news release, will be the final scrimmage of training camp, Gush said he wants to see more consistency. Additionally, he and the rest of the defense want to start better during team periods.
The scrimmage is closed to the public and media.
Along with Begue’s long touchdown in last Saturday’s scrimmage, the offense has had a tendency to start strong before the defense settles in. The defense wants to start and stay strong.
For Gush, a big help in his transition from Navarro (Texas) College, where he spent the last two seasons, to McNeese has been bringing along linebackers Kody Fulp and Carlos Scott. They were brought in because of need — McNeese’s top three linebackers from 2018 graduated — but also because of their familiarity with Gush’s scheme.
“I think it eased the transition this spring,” Gush said of Fulp and Scott. “Because they have an idea of how to call the fronts and coverages and strength calls. I think it moved up the learning curve a little bit. I’m excited to have those guys with me.”