Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix ranks among the most experienced assistants on Jeff Traylor’s staff. During his 16 years coordinating defenses in the SEC and Conference USA, one feature has defined Nix’s defenses: Being multiple.
Nix has run almost every front and alignment possible in order to get the most out of his players. When evaluating those available on his first roster at UTSA, the personnel seemed to match up best with a 3-4 defense.
Perhaps the biggest factor in that decision comes right in the middle. Defensive tackle Jaylon Haynes posted 12.5 tackles for loss and six QB hurries during a breakout junior campaign. He bulked up to 305 pounds over the offseason to cause havoc in the middle of the defense.
“If you’re going to start with a position on your defense to really be good, you want to start up front,” Nix said. “He’s going to be our bell cow. We’re only going to be as good as he takes us.”
JUCO transfer Lorenzo Dantzler will man one defensive end role, but the other is up in the air. There aren’t obvious pieces in place to start at inside linebacker either. That competition at both positions will extend until the fall. With the defensive switch, several former pass rushers will compete for snaps at outside linebacker instead. Nix is open-minded with the fourth linebacker spot too; the Roadrunners could move a third safety down and use them as a nickelback to play multiple spots in the defense.
“What we’re able to do in our system is take a couple of guys that played defensive end that might have been a little undersized and stand them up to give us an outside element,” Nix said. “Ultimately, it gives us a chance to be more multiple and a chance to get more speed on the field.”
If the front gets itself worked out, there’s real promise on the back end. Safeties Kelechi Nwachuku and Rashad Wisdom starred as freshmen, while SaVion Harris forced his way onto the field. Cornerbacks Jahmal Sam and Corey Mayfield Jr. both got their feet wet as underclassmen, and should improve with experience. As the players get more comfortable in a multiple defense, the ceiling will rise.
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