For a football team to have success, it must have success in all aspects of the games from offense, to defense, to special teams. Arkansas State is enjoying that success under first year head coach Hugh Freeze, but a lot of that success is also due to Dave Wommack's defense.
A couple of key stats that the Wolf Pack defense has built on is the fact that they have picked off nine passes in the past five games. Darryl Feemster has a team-high three interceptions over that span, while Kelcie McCray and Qushaun Lee both have two a piece, and Darron Edwards and Sterling Young each have one.
Brandon Joiner has enjoyed success in rushing the quarterback also, where he has picked up nine sacks in his past 12 games.
Safety Jaquan Kilcrease recorded a season-high eight stops, while linebacker Nick Nelms earned a career-high eight tackles and safety Sterling Young earned a career-high seven tackles in last week's game against Florida International.
Senior cornerback Darryl Feemster has recorded one interception in two of the last three games and has three over the last five games. Feemster's team-high three interceptions places him tied for the most in the Sun Belt Conference. He now has four interceptions over his two-year career at Arkansas State.
Coach Wommack sat down with RedWolfReport.com to give his thoughts on how his defense is playing this year, and why they are having so much success.
"The kids are just getting more and more comfortable on defense," said Wommack. "The more reps you get, the better you get, and because our guys are getting better, we have been able to move forward in several of our schemes. The biggest thing is to not make mistakes and to continue to move forward."
Wommack stated that he has been pleased with the play of several players on his defensive squad in recent weeks.
"Dorvus Woods has done a great job for us this year," said Wommack. "I've also been pleased with the play of Demario Davis, Darron Edwards, and Kelcie McCray. They have all done a great job of stepping up for us, and Coach Freeze does a great job of keeping the team focused and all together as a team."
Arkansas State was a team that many felt was on the verge of success going into this season. Wommack has seen this very thing before in his career when he coached at Southern Miss, and helped to lead their program into a new direction. He spoke earlier in the off-season about how he felt Arkansas State's program now is a lot like Southern's Miss' was then.
Wommack gave his thoughts on that as well his thoughts on the team being one win away from bowl eligibility and being on the path towards a potential conference championship.
"You know, there is a real fine line between winning and losing," said Wommack. "It all starts in the off-season, and Coach Freeze and the rest of the staff did a great job of preparing the team before I ever got on campus. Coach Freeze installed some discipline and has helped the team to get the desire to win to go along with that discipline. Looking back, we were one play away from losing to Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Monroe. That is what I mean by there is a fine line between winning and losing, and right now, we are on the right side of that line."
Wommack also stated that the team is developing some swagger, and he believes that is a big key to their success so far.
"One other thing I've noticed is this entire team has developed a swagger about them," said Wommack. "They are not cocky, but they have swagger. That right there makes us better. We also seem to have the help of the Good Lord with us. The main thing about winning championships is making sure your team can stay prepared and focused each game. If you can do that, you can continue to win football games. Hopefully we are one of those teams."
Saturday night, the Red Wolves will host a North Texas team which has began finding success both on the ground and through the air in recent weeks. Wommack said that his defense has to take the game out of the hands of the North Texas offensive coordinators hands in order to have success.
"We are going to have to be very multiple against North Texas," said Wommack. "They have a really good running back in Lance Dunbar that we will have to stop, and their quarterback had a career game last week in the passing game. We are going to have to focus on wide receiver Brelan Chancellor . He has had a lot of success recently, and he has a lot of speed which helps to make him really good. They also have James Hamilton who is very effective in the Wildcat package. He didn't play last week, but he helps make his team really good when he is on the field."
The first order of business for the defense will be to stop the run.
"We have to stop the run first," said Wommack. "This is a cat and mouse game, and we want to be the cat and not the mouse. If we can stop the run first, we will be successful."
Keep checking with RedWolfReport.com for all of your Arkansas State athletic and recruiting news!