ENMU backups look to give defensive help

Dave Wagner

BLACKWATER DRAW — With several holes to fill on defense from last season, Eastern New Mexico University’s football team is hoping help may come from within.

Defensive tackle Stephen Smith and strong safety Jason Serda, both from Albuquerque, may be able to plug a couple of those holes.

Both players saw some duty last year, but were playing behind qualify teammates. Both showed well in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Greyhound Stadium, ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said.

“Jason was making a lot of plays, and Steve had a great scrimmage,” he said.

Smith, who will be a senior in the fall, played behind sophomore Bracy McCoy last season, but the Hounds have moved McCoy to defensive end this spring.

“I think the biggest thing for me is (working on) my speed and explosiveness,” said the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Smith, who prepped at La Cueva. “I’ve always had good timing, but this year I’m just getting off (the ball) faster.”

Smith thinks the Hounds have enough talent in camp to cover for their graduation losses on defense.

“I don’t feel like there’s a big dropoff from last year,” he said. “I think the people filling in will be just as good, although the might not be known yet.”

At 5-10, 185, Serda acknowledges he may need to add a few pounds before the season starts to play the “Hound” position, which is really a combination of linebacker and strong safety. He played behind Tillman Stevens in 2010, but with Stevens out with injury he started the season-ending 35-10 win at Tarleton State and had a solid game.

“When he got hurt, I had one of my best games,” said Serda, who played at Manzano H.S. “I knew I had big shoes to fill, and I learned a lot from him.

“I need to get bigger and stronger, but mostly faster. I’ve been hitting the weights as hard as I can, and I’ve been listening to (defensive co-ordinator Todd) Wallis.”

He’s hoping to add about 15 pounds.

“A lot of the receivers (in the Lone Star Conference) are bigger and faster than me, but I can still hold my own,” Serda said.

Ribaudo has been pleasantly surprised by both players this spring.

“I would’ve said Jason (might have a chance to start) only because he was the next guy in line, but we saw a lot of good things from the game at Tarleton,” Ribaudo said. “Things have really clicked for Stephen. He’s having the best spring of all our DLs (defensive linemen), and that’s a great thing to see.”

The Hounds have five more practice dates this spring, including next Saturday’s annual spring intrasquad game at 4 p.m.