Central Washington University's defensive coordinator Ivan Cordova yells to his players during practice Wednesday, Aug.14, 2019,in Ellensburg, Wash.

Having only a few weeks to prepare for Eastern Washington University last season, the transition into fall camp this season for Central Washington University defensive coordinator Ivan Cordova has been a little easier for the second-year coach.

Cordova was hired on at CWU after Scott Power left just before spring camp to become the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M Kingsville. Cordova came from Eastern New Mexico where his defense allowed 808 total rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017. The Greyhounds posted an 8-2 mark and held opponents to 28.7 points per game.

“Now it’s a heck of lot easier,” Cordova said. “I think the coaches know what we’re doing, the players know what we’re doing. They know us, we know them. And I think they’re starting to perform to the standard that we’re getting there. It’s been a process, and I’m happy where we’re at.”

Cordova was given little time to install his scheme before the 2018 campaign, and the run defense struggled in the first five games, as opponents averaged 209.6 yards per game on the ground.

But in the final six games, CWU diminished that statistic to 108.7 yards per game to finish the year at 154.3 per game. Opponents scored a total of 11 touchdowns.

In 2017, CWU’s run defense surrendered a sterling 45.5 yards per game and nine touchdowns.

As for the Wildcats pass defense, their numbers aren’t drastically contrasting. In 2017, CWU yielded 215 yards per game compared to 237 in 2018. But last season, the defense gave up 23 touchdowns (only 14 in 2017).

CWU allowed an average of 24.3 points per game in 2018, compared to 17.6 in 2017.

For Cordova and his defense this season, it’s less about the scheme and more about the details.

“More working on the adjustments with the offense does,” he said. “Can preach just effort and great technique now. There’s less teaching of the overall what we’re doing, and more focused on like how we’re doing it.”

“Last year we were running more of a base defense, and now we’re throwing in everything, every single flavor that he (Cordova) likes. It’s awesome,” said senior linebacker Donte Hamilton.

CWU runs a 3-4 defense and focuses on creating pressure.

“We don’t always mean that in blitzes, like we’ll blitz, but we want to be a group that puts pressure on offenses, that’s our goal,” Cordova said. “We’re trying to develop that mentality, you know, to just say ‘Hey, let’s put the pressure on guys to make plays on offense. Let’s have confidence that we’re going to make plays on defense, and let’s swarm.’

“We’re going to have our scheme and we’re going to have a lot of things, but it’s how do we play? Do we play aggressive? Do we play fast? Are we physical? I think those are more important than any other stuff.”

Upfront, CWU returns senior Billy Greer, redshirt junior Max Nauer, and redshirt sophomores Kai Gamble and Isaiah Carbajal. All four appeared in 11 games last season.

Hamilton and Oregon State transfer Hamilton Hunt will lead the linebacker group, as well as senior Tevin Gray, who plays more of a hybrid role for the defense.

“We want to stop the run, make them throw the ball and we trust our guys in the back end to make plays,” Hamilton said.

Other than losing All-American cornerback Tyler Hasty, CWU returns much experience in the backfield including GNAC second-team selection senior cornerback Tyren Sams. He started in 10 games last season and finished with 23 tackles and two interceptions.

Senior Marcus Schimmelfennig was a rotation player in 2018, but saw all 11 games and notched 15 tackles. Also returning is redshirt junior Isaiah Williams, who played more of special teams role, but recorded 31 tackles and one interception.

At safety, seniors Chaz Mckenzie and Jeremiah Vasquez both made 10 starts in 2018. McKenzie had a total of 41 tackles (fifth on the team), four pass breakups, and one blocked field goal that was returned 65 yards for a score versus Western Oregon. Vasquez had 25 tackles.

Redshirt sophomore Cody O’Connell appeared in 10 games last season. He was sixth on the team in tackles (37) and had two interceptions.

“We’ll find out how good we can be,” Cordova said. “And I think that we don’t put a number on a lot of stuff, we just say, ‘As good as this group has the potential to be, we want to match that potential.’ And I think if we do that, we have success.”


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