Valencia High football coach Larry Muir will ask his defensive line to pressure opposing passers, he’ll ask them to squeeze off running lanes, and he’ll ask them to swarm to the ball to assist on tackles.
He won’t, however, ask them to live up to now-graduated-defensive-ends Tayler Manuel and Jermaine Brown, who combined for 33 sacks and 40 tackles for a loss last season.
“They’ve done a good job of not getting caught up in that because you’re not going to play like Tayler Manuel,” Muir said. “Tayler was almost a freak he was so good. So you’re not going to be a Tayler Manuel.
“I think (our D-line) has done a good job of understanding they’re going to be the best Ryan Rivera or the best Ben Seymour they can be.”
Rivera and Seymour, a senior and sophomore, respectively, are two of seven players in the mix to toe the line for Valencia this season.
Both Rivera and Seymour play defensive end, but they have to go about the position a little differently.
Rivera, at 5-feet-11-inches, 188 pounds, uses his speed to get after the quarterback, while the 6-1, 232-pound Seymour is a pure force.
Rivera put on 30 pounds over the offseason just to reach his current weight.
“I weighed that in like kindergarten,” Seymour said.
“He’s just bred,” River joked.
Seymour played junior varsity last season, both on defense and on the offensive line. One Hudl video clip shows him taking out two defenders with a single block, something like picking up a spare in bowling.
“We’re looking forward to watching him play,” Muir said of Seymour. “He’s physical. He’s athletic for a big guy. … He runs really well.”
Rivera is competing with senior Evan Tucker and junior Josh DeNeal at the other end position. That didn’t keep Rivera from praising Tucker after practice Friday.
“He has really good technique,” Rivera said. “He’s always in his spot, and he’s a good listener.”
Positioning, Muir said, has been an area of growth for the D-line over the first few weeks of official practice. Players have gradually learned where to be — the next step is to consistently make plays when they get there.
Still, they show promise.
“It’s been a pretty physical group so far,” Muir said.
A handful of players are also competing at nose guard: juniors Michael Parker, Raymond Bauer and James Liddy, along with senior Bryce Hurley. Parker’s athleticism has impressed Rivera.
“He’s bigger but he’s fast,” Rivera said of the 5-10, 235-pound Parker. “He works to the ball.”
Valencia opens its season at home against Palmdale on Sept. 2.