Brady Rivera has found a new home, and he’s loving it.
Rivera, who started the season at middle linebacker, was moved to defensive tackle in early October as part of a big overhaul which involved five positions.
“I love it,” said Rivera, who has chalked up 37 tackles in the past five weeks. “I was more curious (when they first told me). I understood the switch. Tackle is a little easier position. My head wasn’t right I guess. I was a mediocre linebacker when we needed an exceptional linebacker. Tackle is more straightforward. You just want to beat somebody up.
“I feel a lot more comfortable at defensive tackle. I’m having a lot more fun.”
That’s music to coach Blair Roman’s ears. Happier players make better, more productive players. Rivera’s move was tough in the sense that he was going from a marquee-type position at middle linebacker to defensive tackle, a position that doesn’t get a lot of notoriety at any level.
“I brought Brady into the office, and I was right up front with him,” Roman said. “I told him we were making a change at middle linebacker, and that we were moving him to defensive line. Without hesitation, he told me ‘whatever is best for the team coach’. It didn’t surprise, but in a sense it surprised me. I thought he might be pretty disappointed. I think he felt the change would be good.”
Rivera’s attitude epitomized the team-first atmosphere that permeates throughout this year’s squad. It’s all about winning and looking at the big picture. Rivera and most of his teammates understand that and embrace it.
Rivera has had three sacks from his defensive tackle slot, two of those coming against Bishop Manogue, a game which saw him rack up eight tackles. He had a season-best 10 tackles against Spanish Springs.
“Brady has had a ton of success,” Roman said. “He’s athletic and intense. He’s one, tough hombre which you see on the wrestling mat. He struggled at times at middle linebacker. It’s not a natural position for him. It’s a tough position. Next year he may end up at defensive end. I think he could be an all-league caliber there.”
Rivera said he’s able to use wrestling techniques at his new position which is critical because the 190-pounder will be giving up weight to nearly everybody he squares up against.
“Wrestling is a lot of leverage,” River said. “I’m going up against bigger dudes. Both of Reed’s guys are big guys. One of them is 6-3 or 6-4. You go out and do what you can.”
Rivera admitted he wouldn’t mind switching to defensive end next year.
“I’d like that a lot,” he said. “I can utilize my speed a little more. It’s easier to get a pass rush.”
Roman and the team spent Monday watching the first Carson-Reed game in its entirety.
“We saw a lot of mistakes we think are correctable,” Roman said. “They are a good second-half team. Their coaching staff does an excellent job. They play with great belief in themselves.”
Carson is a different defensive team than the one that faced Reed the first time (a 64-26 loss). Joey Thurman has taken over for Asa Carter at free safety, allowing Carter to move down in the hybrid linebacker/strong safety spot. Those two moves allowed Nolan Shine, the former starter at strong safety, to move to outside linebacker. Cody Cunningham took over at middle linebacker for Rivera, who moved down to the defensive line. Also, offensive tackle Aaron Cowee, who missed the first battle with an ankle sprain, is healthy again.
“No doubt about it,” Roman said when asked if Carson’s defense is better. “I feel much better coming into this Reed game than I did the last one, especially on the defensive line. We have five kids who played significant minutes on defense that are either ineligible or not in the program any longer. Reed exposed us. The first four games masked some of that.”
The big difference the last time as the third quarter. Reed scored 36 unanswered points to break open a 21-19 game.
The barrage started with a pick-six by Brett Handlin, and then the Reed offense scored four times on four possessions.
Two of Reed’s biggest weapons are wide receiver Trae Wells and running back Jordan DeLeon.
Wells caught eight passes for 172 yards and TD passes of 47 and 67 yards, respectively. DeLeon didn’t play in the last game, but ran for 299 yards last week against Galena.
“Not only can (Wells) get vertical, but he runs great routes,” Roman said. “DeLeon is the most impressive player we’ve seen. He runs hard. Their offensive line is outstanding. I think their offensive line is pretty close to what it was a couple of years ago (2011).”
The big key for Carson to pull off an upset, which many deem impossible, is to control the ball offensively.
“It’s important,” Roman said. “Reno did a great job with it. They kept the chains moving.”
Carson had three drives that lasted more than five minutes last week against Damonte Ranch, two of which ended in touchdowns, and the Senators will need to have that type of game to be successful.