Scottie Hazelton has a well thought out plan to improve the Nevada Wolf Pack football team’s defense.
“It’s a three-step process,” said Hazelton, who was introduced as the Wolf Pack’s new defensive coordinator a week ago by new head coach Brian Polian.
“The first step is you expect them to play hard. That’s on them. Players are expected to play hard and they have to do it themselves. The second part is on us as coaches. We have to help guys play fast. To do that you have to teach them how to be comfortable out on the field. You have to teach them what the offense is doing so that when they are out on the field they can recognize it. And when a player is out there playing hard and knows what the offense is doing, he becomes comfortable and that gives them the ability to play even faster than they actually are.
“The third thing is that when a p[layer gives the effort, when he knows what he is doing out there and he is playing fast, then that develops togetherness among a defense. And that’s how you get better on defense.”
Hazelton, who spent the 2012 season as the USC Trojans’ linebacker coach after five seasons at North Dakota State, takes over a struggling Wolf Pack defense looking for some answers. The Pack allowed an alarming 33.8 points and 442.5 yards a game in finishing 7-6 in head coach Chris Ault’s final season.
The Wolf Pack also loses seven of its top eight tacklers off of last year’s roster, including its top four linebackers (Albert Rosette, Jeremiah Green, DeAndre Boughton and Dray Bell) top cornerback (Khalid Wooten) and top safety (Duke Williams).
Polian didn’t hesitate to change his defensive coordinator, naming Hazelton to replace Mike Bradeson just two weeks after he was announced as Ault’s successor. Bradeson, who spent just one season as coordinator, will coach the Wolf Pack safeties this season.
“He’s recruited at the highest level,” said Polian of Hazelton. “He’s coached at the highest level. I feel very blessed to have him with us.”
Polian said long-time NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who coached with Hazelton at USC last year, recommended Hazelton for the Pack job.
“He told me, ‘Brian, I have a guy you have to take a look at,'” Polian said.
Hazelton, who will also coach the Pack linebackers, was the defensive coordinator when North Dakota State won the FCS national title in 2011.
“I really don’t know too much about what this defense did last year,” Hazelton said. “But Mike (Bradeson) and (former linebackers coach Ken Wilson) have been great resources for me. They can be a great help to me about what needs to be done.”
Hazelton said he doesn’t look at it like this is his defense.
“The four of us are all working together,” said Hazelton of Bradeson, defensive line coach Bill Teerlinck, a yet to be named cornerbacks coach and himself. “Everybody on defense has a job to do and we are all working together. Everybody has their role.”
Hazelton said he first visited northern Nevada before the 2012 season.
“I came here to study the pistol offense when (Chris Ault) was here,” Hazelton said. “I loved the area. I’m from Denver and there are not many places like Denver and Reno where you can golf in the spring and summer and go skiing in the winter. This is a great place to live.”