On paper the Waxahachie defense will look very similar to last season as several players are returning. On the field, look for subtle changes that will make a big difference.

With a young defense that lacked size last season the Indians gave up more yards per game than they had in a long time. If Thursday’s spring game was any indication, the defense will be back to top form in 2011.

“The defensive changes have been slow and deliberate, but the weekly progress has been very pleasing,” Waxahachie defensive coordinator Greg Reed said. “We have found that we have much more depth at each position than last season which gives us options on who we put on the field and where they best can help the team. I believe the defensive unit as a whole will be smarter, faster and stronger. That combined with experience will allow us to be more multiple in our fronts and secondary coverages where we were very limited last season.”

The Green and White teams were split evenly during the spring game Thursday but the defensive units combined to hold the offenses to 279 total yards while forcing nine turnovers. The defenses had 16 tackles for a loss and seven sacks as blitzes came from all over the field.

“The defense looks amazing. We have been looking really strong, we have a big heart, are passionate and our chemistry is real good,” linebacker Devin Chandler said. “We are coming together as a unit and a family. We are attacking more this year and sticking to our reads.”

Chandler has been a starter at linebacker for the Indians for two years and enters his senior season as the veteran leader for the team.

He is one of several strong linebackers that give Reed plenty of depth at the team’s strongest defensive position.

“The bottom line is that we will be better as a team because of the winter strength and conditioning work. The linebacker position will be experienced with the return of Devin Walker, Christian Brewer and Devin Chandler, but we have several young players including Austin Davidson, Micah Lett and James Onadele that can’t be ignored,” Reed said.

Last season the defensive line, specifically the defensive tackles, was the strongest unit of the defense but with graduation the Indians lost a lot of experience.

“The defensive line and defensive backs are where we have seen the most improvement and was a problem area coming into spring practice,” Reed said. “R.J. Zavala, Bryan Randell, Craig Renfro and B.J. Sargent are returning starters that we are demanding be a force at the line of scrimmage. Ray Tunson, Mike Foster, Gennard Johnson, Luke Calvert, Corey Culton and Terrance Hawkins will give us depth, strength, speed and athleticism to the defensive front. All of these guys are playing well this spring and will have a roll in the defense this fall.”

In the secondary the Indians lose the playmaking ability of LaDarius Brown at safety but return several guys who got experience last year and will be better for it.

“The defensive back positions had glaring question marks at the end of last season, but we have several players from last year’s JV team that have met the challenge of competing for a position,” Reed said. “At safety, Austin Clark has been a consistent and intelligent player along with Jamarion Rose, Dalton Pollan and Don King.  Lorenzo Lacey and Gauge Thomas have also shown they have the potential to contribute. The corner position has several contending starters with Michael Veail, Quinn Sargent, Andre Green, Theo Gray, A.J. Rodriguez and newcomer Tracy Morrison. Each are skilled athletes and have shown good things this spring, but no one has claimed the position as their own.”

During the spring game on Thursday Robert Lowe Jr. had a tackle for a loss early in the game while Yusef Reown and Quinn Sargent were two players who had interceptions.

The defensive backs held the offense to 16 percent passing and made the five catches tough.

“One of the easiest parts of coaching is identifying problems. Anyone can identify a problem area. The challenge and passion is in finding the solution,” Reed said. “I feel the defensive staff and players are committed to the challenge. Our defensive intensity and sense of urgency has greatly improved and August cannot get here fast enough.”