At the end of the first school day following Carteret’s victory in last year’s Central Group II final, Charles Faulkner stood outside the weight room door ready to start preparing for the 2013 campaign.
“I had to tell him it wasn’t open yet,” said Carteret coach Matt Yascko. “He’s the first one at practice and the last one to leave. He does everything right.”
Overshadowed by bigger name players, including quarterback Tyler Rodriguez and tailback Jerod Johnson, who graduated as the school’s career passing and rushing leaders, respectively, Faulkner anchored a defense that was regarded among the finest in Yascko’s eight-year tenure.
The senior linebacker, who will serve as defensive captain this fall, ranked second on the squad with 112 tackles including a team-high two sacks.
Faulkner, along with tackle Cory Baccarella and free safety Brandon Gilder, will anchor a defense that Yascko said could rival the 2007 squad as his best.
“He’s the prototypical linebacker,” Yascko said. “He’s a true student of the game. He loves the game of football. Last year he didn’t have to be the focal point of the defense. He had a little less pressure and was able to just play.”
This season, however, Faulkner’s responsibility, along with that of the entire defense, will change.
“Last year,” Yascko explained, “I think we were offensively in an attack mode most of the game, looking to go up and down the field, putting up 30 points a game. The defense played off of it. We were able to control the game from an offensive standpoint.”
With Rodriguez’s 1,820 passing yards and Johnson’s 1,502 rushing yards departed, Carteret will alter its offensive philosophy, putting more pressure on the defense to create good field position and to force turnovers.
Nelson Baez and Louis Negron, competing for the starting quarterback spot, will be asked to “manage” the game, while promising tailback Terell Merricks, limited to 13 touches last season, will be asked to carry the load on the ground.
“Let’s control the game offensively and let the defense be the cornerstone of the team,” Yascko explained. “Let’s be opportunistic offensively and score your points where you can.”
Yascko expects Merricks, who likely would have started at most other schools had he not been second to Johnson on the depth chart, to have a “pretty big year.”
The coach said both quarterbacks “have a good grasp of what we want to do” but said, through no fault of their own, he has had to “slow down or tweak” some things in practice, largely because their predecessor was a three-year starter.
“I think we got spoiled with Tyler,” Yascko said. “Tyler had seen and done it all.”
Until the offense comes together, the Ramblers will rely on their defense, especially Faulkner.
Used predominantly as an outside linebacker last fall, Faulkner will be asked to play “all over the field,” Yascko said, and to make all the calls defensively.
“He’ll have more responsibilities,” Yascko said. “He’s ready for it.”