Fins Ups: Oakland D plays with swagger

Fins Ups: Oakland D plays with swagger

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Fins Ups: Oakland D plays with swagger

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MURFREESBORO

Oakland’s defense didn’t need long to find its identity.

Sophomore defensive tackle Ty Nix, son of MTSU defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, brought to Oakland its 2013 defensive mantra: “Fins up. Sharks are in the water.”

The younger Nix even brought with him a little celebration that has caught on — a defender puts their thumb near the top of the helmet and forms a fin with their hand.

“When you make a big play on defense, you just get up from the pile and you throw your fin up,” Ty Nix said. “We’ve got the whole school on it and everything. It’s only on big plays, though.

“I started it in the spring and coach (Matt) Gardner liked it. He started saying, ‘Fins up,’ and everything. We got everybody on it.”

But so far there have been plenty of fins in the air on Friday nights.

Oakland has allowed 12.5 points and 192.8 yards a game this season through six contests. Only Blackman is allowing less points (11.9) in District 7-AAA.

The Oakland defense will be tested at 6 p.m. (CDT) today when the Patriots play at Baylor School in Chattanooga. Oakland (6-0) is ranked second in Class 6A. Baylor (5-1) is ranked second in Division II. Baylor has finished runner-up in Division II-AA to Ensworth two of the past three seasons.

Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel said the key to the defense has been the Patriots’ play up front. The defensive line’s play has allowed him to stay “vanilla” with the linebackers and secondary.

“They have been able to control the line of scrimmage and stop the run,” McDaniel said. “That’s the big thing. We’ve been able to line up and play base football, which is something we haven’t been able to do because of our size the past couple years.”

Ty Nix said his father’s defense at Ole Miss started the fins up.

“They started it one day on defense,” Ty Nix said. “They had it for a couple years, then he brought it here when he came. And he just gave it to me.”

McDaniel said this defensive line, which includes ends Curtis Gaines and Anthony Akers with tackles Nix and Austin Barrett, isn’t where the 2008 and 2009 lines were that featured two-time Mr. Football finalist Tim McAdoo. But, it falls just after them.

“They have potential to be a pretty dominant front,” he said. “It’s hard to say they are better because there was a lot of athleticism there, too.”

Barrett, who was the District 7-AAA lineman of the year in 2012, is a key component to the defensive front.

“We’re just a humble defense,” Barrett said. “We work hard in practice, but we know we’re not perfect. We’re a hungry defense.

“Our front doesn’t really give up many yards. We take up most of the blockers. That’s what helps our linebackers so much.”

It especially has been good for linebacker Kevin Prather. The junior leads the team with 64 tackles in six games. He also has six forced fumbles and has recovered two.

“All we do is read our keys and practice hard,” Prather said. “We practice how we play.”

And right now, that’s with a lot of fins.

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