Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Durant defense succeeding with no-frills approach

PLANT CITY — Those who have attended a football game this fall at Durant High have been exposed to a profusion of calorific concession-stand treats and a dearth of style points.

While vendors sell kettle corn and smoked turkey legs, the Cougars have opted for a meat-and-potatoes mentality. Let the Plants and Jeffersons of the world win with high-octane aplomb and stout defense. The Cougars (5-1) will settle for the stout defense.

"We're the dirty 30," said first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Kelley, former coach at Plant City. "Eleven starters and, I think, three backups. We play the cards we've got, and the kids have responded."

Through six games, the Cougars have surrendered 38 total points. Subtract their only loss, a 24-0 aberration at Jesuit, and seventh-year coach Mike Gottman's club is allowing less than a field goal a game.

"It really surprised me a lot early," fourth-year starting linebacker Ruben Garcia said.

"Coming into the fall I thought our team was a lot smaller. Just going through the discipline we go through in practice and all the work we do, it really helps us. When it comes to game time, we've been putting up a lot of fights and been shutting a couple of teams down, too."

Physically, the Cougars will intimidate no one. The starting linemen in their 4-3 base alignment average 181 pounds. Nonetheless, that group — ends Josh Halferty and C.J. Griffin, and tackles Clay Varnum and Daivonte Lumpkin — has 101/2 sacks. Halferty's 61/2 lead the team.

But an even bigger key, Kelley says, has been the leadership and performance of Durant's senior linebackers: Garcia, Rance Rutherford and Sean Kolanowski. Those three, along with senior free safety T.J. Davis, comprise what Kelley calls "the heart and soul of the defense."

"We've played several different teams. We've played some spread, we played East Bay that runs the (wishbone) and we're blessed to have senior linebackers that are smart kids," said Kelley, a 1980 Leto graduate and prep teammate of current Wharton coach David Mitchell.

"They will get us lined up. We played Riverview last week (a 14-8 victory). I think I had 68 cards drawn up for our scout team to run. It's unbelievable. So that many formations and that much stuff, if you don't have some talented kids you're in trouble."

Friday, the Cougars travel to 5-1 Sickles for one of the area's most intriguing nondistrict matchups of the night. During pregame group work, the linebackers will break from their huddle with the collective cry of "dominate."

More than a month and a half into the season, it's a mantra they haven't had to modify.

"The first time we tried to break it down in the summer, (linebackers coach L.C. Sims) came over and told us, 'If y'all are going to say that, you've got to mean it,' " Rutherford recalled. " 'You can't just be breaking it down. You've got to mean what you say.' "

Joey Knight can be reached at

Durant defense succeeding with no-frills approach 10/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 9:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs-Vikings: What could make Tampa Bay's defense elite again


    TAMPA — The last time the Bucs had a top-five defense also happens to be when they last appeared in the postseason.

    Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) celebrates after recovering a fumble by Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Steven Stamkos making exhibition debut for Lightning


    Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will make his much-anticipated exhibition debut tonight against the Predators.

  3. Quick snaps: Florida's streak, FSU's true freshman QB and UCF's prolific offense



     Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain shakes hands with Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops at the end of the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7.
  4. Cannon Fodder podcast: Key matchups in Bucs-Vikings game


    In our latest Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast, Greg Auman breaks down five key matchups that will help decide Sunday's Bucs game against the Minnesota Vikings.

    Defensive lineman Chris Baker is a question mark heading into Sunday's game against the Vikings.
  5. Rick and Tom podcast: Will Bucs go 2-0? Are Gators on upset alert?


    It's football friday as Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the Bucs' game in Minnesota, including the improved offensive line.

    Ali Marpet moved from guard to center on an improved Bucs offensive line.