A year ago, they were still in a feeling-out stage.
LaGrange College had a new defensive coordinator in Terry Ursin, and he was still getting to know the players, and they were adjusting to his style of coaching.
Now, with the Panthers set to open their season on Saturday against Birmingham-Southern, it’s full-speed ahead for Ursin and the LaGrange College defense.
“Coming into this year 2, I know what they have, and they know what they have in me,” Ursin said. “They know what the expectation is. That’s been the best thing right now.”
Ursin, a New Orleans native and a former standout defensive lineman at Rhodes College, arrived at LaGrange College a year ago after a stint as the defensive coordinator at Holmes Community College.
There were plenty of highlights for the defense during the season, but Ursin said the 2012 season was all about “establishing the process.”
“We were learning the mindset in terms of how to get things done,” Ursin said. “We wanted to establish a very efficient process, a very fast process. And so it was obviously a learning curve.”
Ursin said for all the defensive players “you’re going to see on the field a year’s worth of work, 365 days worth of dedication.”
The Panthers are having to replace a handful of starters who have moved on, but there are plenty of talented people returning, most notably senior linebacker Andre Carter, who set the school’s single-season tackle record in 2011 before breaking his own record a year ago.
Other defensive veterans include senior linebacker Sean McNamee, and junior linebacker Scott Chewning.
Chewning said everything has gone smoothly on the defensive side of the ball.
“We definitely understand (Ursin’s) system a lot better, all the returning guys,” Chewning said. “We understand his personality, his expectations, how he expects us to go about our business. It’s a very professional atmosphere.”
Carter, who has secured all-conference and all-American honors the past two seasons, said it was “kind of like us getting to know (Ursin), and him getting to know us. It’s no longer like an acclimation process. It’s more, let’s implement what we’ve got to do, and let’s do it. We know what we have to do, so let’s just get out there and do it. That’s the biggest difference between this year and last year.”
Ursin said the veterans and newcomers alike have fully bought into what he and the other coaches have been teaching them.
“Guys come out here and they just want to play,” Ursin said. “They love it.”