When Carson football coach Blair Roman moved Brady Rivera to the defensive line late last season, he knew it was a stop-gap measure to fill a more pressing need.
Roman wanted the 6-foot-2 215-pound Rivera at defensive end, and when spring ball started in May, Rivera got his first taste at the position.
“He has the body type,” Roman said. “He looks like a defensive end. He’s tall and has length, and he’s strong and athletic.
“Playing middle linebacker is really hard. Either you can do it or you can’t. We moved Brady to defensive tackle because we had more of a need there, and he’s certainly strong enough to play defensive tackle. He has such a good understanding of body leverage.”
Entering Friday’s game at North Valleys (7 p.m.), Rivera is loving his new position. He’s 10th in tackles among Division I defenders with 15 (4 solo, 11 assists).
“I love it,” Rivera said before Wednesday’s practice. “At defensive end, I can focus on rushing the passer and maintaining outside leverage. I’m supposed to funnel everything back inside and not let anybody get outside of me. I can do better. I have a long ways to go, and the coaches and my teammates are helping me get there.
“I love rushing the passer and I get to play in the open field, too. They wanted me at defensive end last year, but they needed me to fill in at defensive tackle. Middle linebacker is probably the toughest position on the defense. It (defensive end) is pretty simple, just don’t let anybody get outside of you.”
Playing in the trenches was right up Rivera’s alley last year. A state caliber wrestler, Rivera loves the physical confrontations that each snap brings. At defensive end there’s a certain amount of physicalness to the position, but it’s not as demanding as playing defensive tackle, and Rivera is able to use his speed and athleticism more often. You certainly don’t take as much of a beating at defensive end as you can at defensive end where you have the chance to be double teamed on every snap.
“It’s been a pretty smooth transition (for him),” said first-year defensive coordinator Steve Dilley. “We’re essentially running the same defense we did with Bob (Bateman, former defensive coordinator). He’s a smart football player. He understands what teams are trying to do. “Brady and (Cameron) Radtke are both doing a good job. As the season progresses, we’ll turn them loose a little more. In obvious pass situations, we’ll be rushing hard. Their first responsibility is to maintain leverage. Every year somebody comes out of nowhere (at defensive end). One year it was Ryan Hoskins.”
Rivera brings a certain amount of intensity to the field, and his wrestling skills come in handy.
“What I try to do is fire up the players with my intensity,” Rivera said. “I want to play with intensity and tenacity; hit anybody in front of me.
“Shedding a block.. it’s all about applying small points of pressure. You don’t always need raw power.”
He did plenty of hitting in the first half against McQueen. He stopped Tyler Hutton short of a first down on a third-and-short play to force a punt and then stopped Elijah Gardner for no gain to force a third-and-11 situation which the Lancers converted. On McQueen’s last drive of the half, he stopped QB Jon Weethee for no gain on a second-and-12 play.
Rivera also shares the tight end spot with junior Ian Schulz. He has yet to record a catch, though he nearly made a tremendous one-handed grab over the middle against McQueen.
“The blocking is fine,” he said. “Catching the ball is nice.”
Rivera did have TD grab in the scrimmage against Manogue, and showed some burst and power in the open field.
For now, his biggest contribution is at defensive end, which is where his heart is.