After posting a 5-5 record one season ago, the Oklahoma Chargers are looking to breakout on the field this season. With many key returners back at a variety of positions, the Chargers are primed for improvement in what looks to be an even tougher Xtreme Football League of Oklahoma schedule.
“Every year we have been here, we’ve had injuries late that have kind of derailed our season,” Chargers co-owner James Whitecloud told Developmental Football USA. “We’ve also had a hard time finding defensive backs in this town, but we are looking much better this season.”
The Chargers run a 3-3-5 defense which, since it is a little uncommon at the developmental level, gives them a bit of an advantage.
“It’s a different type of defense than what most teams run around here,” Whitecloud said. “Like most defenses, though, if you can get it down you can make it work because it is a pretty good defense.”
Early on last season, the Chargers scheme helped them boast one of the top defenses in the XFL before dropping in the rankings a bit after injuries decimated their limited roster.
However, with an influx of new, young talent, Whitecloud expects 2017 to turn out much better, even if the injury bug strikes again.
With a wounded roster, the Chargers still managed to limp their way to the 5-5 record and their defense was a major contributor in helping them stay afloat. Defensive Coordinator Ricky Shadden, 34, last coached at Haskell Indian University before taking over as defensive coordinator for the Chargers and this year he should have plenty of pieces to work with at every level of his defense.
At outside linebacker, the Chargers have John Wayne Chastain, the captain of the defense and a versatile defender.
“This kid has no regard for personal safety,” Whitecloud said. “He is hell on wheels, and he moves really well. He runs a 4.2 40. I mean, this kid is fast. He is always a part of every tackle. He is everything you want in a linebacker. He is smart, he is a defensive captain. You can’t really say enough about him.”
A big part of 3-3-5 defense is defensive backs who can provide help in run and pass support and Whitecloud has a good one in free safety Rashad Ball, who was a star at Tulsa Union High School just a few seasons ago.
“He is young, big, strong, and fast, he knows how to cover and knows how to read a QB,” Whitecloud said. “This guy should be playing on Saturdays somewhere.”
Another big piece that makes Whitecloud very excited for the continued growth and development of his defense is the addition of nose tackle Tim Moore Jr.
“This is his first year, and he is just like John Wayne,” Whitecloud said. “They are both real tough and smart kids. He also has no regard for personal safety. He gets out there and makes plays. He is a big hitter. I’m real excited to see what he does throughout the season.”
To match his defense, Whitecloud needs to get his offensive pieces to produce like he knows they can, which he leaves up to head coach Coy Harjo to maximize their potential. Luckily for Whitecloud, he has solid core at the skill positions to build around, in quarterback Tyler Dorsey, running back Ken Demery and wide receiver Israel Arnett.
“Tyler has good field vision and a strong arm,” Whitecloud said. “He makes good decisions and he is an offensive leader. First year playing for our team, he steps in and immediately takes control of that offense. He is real mature and has that mature mindset.”
Dorsey will look to distribute the ball for the Chargers and get everyone involved, but you can expect to see Arnett on the receiving end of a good chunk of his passes.
“He is another one who has good football instincts,” Whitecloud said. “He doesn’t leave his quarterback hanging. He will come back and throw blocks, he will come back and help his quarterback and not leave him stranded if he starts to scramble. Wherever he is, he tries to make a play. He has high speed and all the things you need in a receiver.”
For the Chargers to get their offense rolling at the level they would like, they will need to balance it out with a strong running and short passing game, and that’s where Demery fits in.
“He is a do-it-all running back,” Whitecloud said. “He is fast, he is shifty. He is a good blocker and receiver. He will be an excellent safety valve for our quarterback. He has a really high football IQ. He is just a heck of an athlete. He plays kick returner and linebacker sometimes, too. He is not afraid of contact.”
In a small town, offensive linemen are also tough to find, but Whitecloud believes that he is moving in the right direction from a player acquisition standpoint for his offensive line. The offense sputtered at times last season due to some mismatches and missing pieces on the offensive line.
This season should be a much different story.
“This year we really hit the streets and beat the bushes and have some young kids out here now,” Whitecloud said. “I think our oldest lineman is probably 24. We have a young offensive line and these guys aren’t afraid to hit, they aren’t afraid to move, and they are getting a good push on the offensive line.”
As a whole, Whitecloud is very excited about his offensive pieces – led by Dorsey, Demrey, and Arnett – and what they could do in the spread scheme that the Chargers run.
“Those guys are going to be something this season,” Whitecloud said.
Pair a good offense with their stout defense and the Chargers should be on their way to breaking through the .500 barrier this season.