Winston-Salem State’s defense has undergone a bit of a change since the season opened four weeks ago.
Ta’Shaun Taylor started the season as a linebacker in the Rams’ 4-2-5 scheme, but he has moved into more of his natural position along the defensive line. It’s a minor tweak by Robert Massey, the interim head coach and co-coordinator of the defense, but he expects it to pay off.
Massey and Tremayne Henry, the defensive line coach who also is the co-coordinator of the defense, decided before the Tuskegee game to put Taylor on the line and elevate Taymond Reed to the starting lineup to replace Taylor at linebacker.
Reed, a 6-foot, 224-pound junior from Graham, has been solid in his two starts, with 11 combined tackles.
“In our defensive meeting that week (before the Tuskegee game) we had talked about Ta’Shaun — and I have the Durham area for recruiting, and I had recruited him here,” Massey said. “And I mentioned that he played defensive end in high school. Now, we have stood him up at linebacker, and he’s still at a learning curve.”
Taylor, who is 6-1 and 208 pounds, played linebacker all of last season for the Rams, but his quickness has been an advantage since his move to the defensive line.
“What we did and what Coach Henry did was in passing situations put him on the line,” Massey said of Taylor. “He’s instinctive at that defensive end position and it worked for us. So we did it again in the Virginia Union game, and we like that move.”
Reed, who has been the long snapper in his two previous seasons with the Rams, has been thrust into a bigger role.
“My freshman year, I was behind Pat Green and Jayron Rankin,” Reed said. “So I had to bide my time.”
Reed played linebacker while at Graham High School.
“My old high school coach, Anthony Timmons, did a good job of coaching me up for that position at linebacker,” Reed said of Timmons, who is now the head coach at Knightdale High School. “And Coach Massey and Coach (Marvin) Bohannon have really helped me in my development as well.”
That development will be put to the test in Saturday’s game when the Rams (1-3, 0-1 CIAA) will try to pull off an upset over the Bulldogs.
“It’s the first two games and I felt like I could have done more to help the team out,” Reed said of his production in a win over Tuskegee and a loss last week to Virginia Union. “After I watched film I left some tackles out there and I should have made more of those. I know I can contribute to the team.”
WSSU will need its defense to play well on Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium in its 2 p.m. game against 20th-ranked Bowie State. The Bulldogs (4-0) are the defending CIAA champions.
Bowie State doesn’t have a high-flying passing game since quarterback Amir Hall has graduated, but Massey says the Bulldogs are still an exceptional team. They are averaging 39 points and 422 yards of total offense per game so far this season.
The Rams are allowing 21 points per game, and their offense is scoring 18 points per game. In all four of WSSU’s games, it has held the led at halftime, but three of those games ended in close losses for the Rams.
“It’s an important game and we have to compete and come out and get a win,” Reed said. “We are going to win a close game at some point, and I feel like we can win. We have the manpower to win the rest of our games.”