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VOL. 11 | NO. 35 | Saturday, September 1, 2018

Rhodes’ Football Team Relying On Defensive Changes, 3-Year Starting QB

Pete Wickham

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Parker Rye can’t help but smile when he watches his Rhodes College teammates, most of whom came from elite private schools around the country, get Memphis-ized. More specifically “North North North North” Memphis-ized.

“One of the best parts of (summer) workouts has been guys adopting the attitude of Memphis,” said Rye, a junior defensive lineman from FACS. “Not Rhodes, but Memphis. They kind of focus on the grit and grind. We’re not the most popular team in America, or even Memphis. Just a bunch of guys that play gritty. It’s kind of funny. We work out all the time to Juicy J’s ‘North Memphis Like Me.’

Rhodes’ roster draws from 17 different states, coast to coast and border to border. Rye is one of a handful of homeboys on coach Jim Ryan’s roster, preparing for Saturday’s 7 p.m. home opener against Illinois College.

“Early in the fall, it’s football 12 hours a day, then we go out and let ‘em experience Memphis,” Rye said. ”…Take ‘em to Gus’s (Fried Chicken). The Bar-B-Q Shop is 100 feet from my house so I take them there.”

He even knows how to neutralize the smack the dozen Nashville-area guys bring from time to time. “Our running joke is ‘If Nashville’s that great, you wouldn’t have to come to Memphis.’”

Rye is expected to start on the defensive line, and is anxious for the season-opener.

“I got hurt at the beginning of the year (torn foot ligament) and spent most of this past year recovering. Me and one of the older guys on the team, D’on Coofer, spent all summer working together trying to build the trust you’ve got to have with the guy next to you.”

Rye would add to a solid defensive front that includes Cooper, a first-team All-Southern Athletic Association pick last year, and veteran linebackers Trent Holt and Duke Sherrell.

Ryan, in his third year as Lynx coach, said the defensive line was not the problem that contributed to surrendering nearly 36 points a game as Rhodes struggled to a 4-6 mark. “We were fine on the front seven, but we were so young on the corners we couldn’t stop the home run ball.”

Ryan will take personal charge of the secondary this year and has juggled his cornerback rotation, moving Taylor Smith from safety to cornerback– and hoping the freshmen and sophomores who started last year mature.

Offensively, it’s still senior quarterback PJ Settles’ show. A third-year starter, he has racked up more than 8,100 yards total offense, and accounted for 76 touchdowns – 44 by air and 32 on the ground. He led the SAA in rushing last year with 1,111 yards and scored 16 rushing touchdowns.

“We can’t hit him in practice, but you get close to him and get mad because you think you could have made that tackle,” Rye said, “but then we get in a game, watch him make the same move on a live defense and realize they’ll never make the tackle either. Right now, he’s running his own video game.”

He threw 20 touchdown passes last year, seven of them to senior wideout Josh Lucas, who had 76 catches for 1,199 yards. Biggest problem for Settles, throughout his career is the interception. He threw 17 of them last year, while hitting just 53 percent of his passes.

Rye sees a more confident quarterback “who is willing to hang in there longer before taking off.”

A veteran line will do that the Lynx are especially loaded at tackle. On the left side is senior DJ Coker, a pre-season Division III All-America pick who Ryan said “has started to draw some interest from the next level.” On the other side is 6-foot-8 senior, Andrew Murphy. Also expected to be firmly in the mix is 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior Geoffrey Adams, a Cordova alum.

Finding secondary threats at running back and wide receiver are on the Rhodes’ to-do list, and the Lynx will entrust the kicking game to rookies, junior kicker Crew Jacobs and freshman punter Cameron Cluney.

Rhodes also has two new coordinators – Brad Linares on offense and Chris DiLella on defense. Both were line coaches last season and were promoted in the offseason. “We don’t have to change terminology or systems. The players have a comfort level with these coaches,” Ryan said

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