Rattlers using new defensive philosophy, mindset as season begins
The 2018 Indoor Football League season saw the Arizona Rattlers lose just three regular season games and miss their second straight United Bowl appearance when a Sawyer Petre game-winning 24-yard field goal missed wide right.
Arizona would lose to Sioux Falls, 69-68 in overtime, sending head coach Kevin Guy’s team home in disappointing fashion.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Guy got to work overhauling his defense to be more aggressive in all phases and continue to compete for championships.
“We had to get better stopping the run, especially against the running quarterbacks,” Guy said at the team’s media day on Tuesday. “We felt like we checked all the boxes there.”
Guy, a former defensive back, feels this is the storied franchise’s best roster since joining the IFL in 2017, when the Rattlers won their first United Bowl championship.
“Our defense is going to be better than last year. We still have to work to get where we need to be. I think we’ve got a lot of pieces,” Guy said. “We wanted to get more physical in the secondary.
“We had a couple of guys who were making business decisions during the game and not sticking their head in there and making tackles and playing physical. That’s not going to happen this year. We’ve got a very physical secondary.”
Arizona returns its core defensive players including safety Allen “Bubba” Chapman and defensive linemen Chris McAllister and Joshua Gordon.
Newcomers Connor Flagel and Lance McDowdell should provide support up front, while linebacker Ricky Wyatt Jr is expected to be a force in the pass rush. Cornerback Dillion Winfrey returns after a stint in the AAF.
“I know when I get out there, it’s about making it right this time,” McAllister said. “That’s why a couple of guys came back.”
The Rattlers return every starter from the IFL’s highest scoring offense, highlighted by quarterbacks Jeff Ziemba and Verlon Reed, running back Darrell Monroe and receivers Jamal Miles and Anthony Amos.
Guy mentioned the quarterback competition would go all the way until Sunday’s opener, with the starter not being named until a few hours before kickoff.
“Our plan is to get both of them playing early. We’ll see how it goes from there. But it’s a day-to-day business. It’s about production. Any decision we make is about the team. I feel very confident in Verlon and Jeff.”
The Rattlers moved on from Petre in the off-season, picking up former Fresno State kicker Jimmy Camacho from the AAF waiver wire.
Changes were abundant in the IFL, with the league moving expansion from six to ten teams, including franchises in San Diego and Tucson. Guy became part-owner of the Tucson Sugar Skulls with his wife, adding to his duties as head coach/general manager of Arizona. The two teams will face each other four times this season.
The Rattlers open the 2019 season on Sunday on the road against the Green Bay Blizzard. Kick-off is at 2 p.m. All road games can be watched live on YouTube. The Rattlers home opener is Sunday, Mar. 5 against the Cedar Rapids River Kings. Kick-off is at 3 p.m.