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Defensive side preference of versatile Redskin linebacker/running back

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By Nick Brockman

Putnam Review

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail ¬ Hurricane's Payton Lunsford grabs GW QB Grant Wells leg for a tackle.

Payton Lunsford plays both sides of the football for Hurricane, yet his home lies on the defensive half of the field.

Lunsford, a senior, will again start at linebacker this season for the Redskins, and he’ll play among the offense’s backfield, too, though he makes the greatest impact on defense.

“I like giving the hit than taking the hit,” Lunsford said. “I like defense a lot more. I like linebacker, because it’s kind of like QB of the defense.”

The defense follows as Lunsford directs, too, because of his example, Redskins coach Jeremy Taylor said.

“He’s definitely the glue for the defense right now,” Taylor said. “He’s a three-year starter, definitely the hardest worker we have.

“Last year, he was the only two-way player that we had that played any significant time. Right now, we’re using him solely at linebacker, but he will play some tailback or fullback just depending on how our younger kids develop. He can do it all.”

Taylor has worked to keep players on one side of the ball to ensure their stamina throughout a game. At first, Lunsford said he was disappointed he may no longer play both offense and defense, but he found a way to continue to contribute in both aspects.

“I’ve always played both sides, and when I heard we were going two-platoon or no one plays both ways, I was kind of upset,” Lunsford said, “but then some positions opened up and I was able to play both ways. I liked it. I took some pride in it.”

As a linebacker, few rival Lunsford’s skills, Taylor said.

“If all he has to do is play linebacker, he’s going to be a great one,” Taylor said. “He’s got good instincts and he’s tough. It’s hard for one person to block him. He’s going to demand a couple people coming at him and that’s going to free up somebody else.”

Lunsford’s experience as a back provides him an advantage, too.

“It’s pretty easy to pick up tendencies on other guys, because I do some of the same things they do,” Lunsford said. “As a linebacker, we just preach to read the guards and read the backs. Wherever the guard goes, we pretty much go.”

Opposing offenses face a tough choice in preparing a game plan against Lunsford and the Hurricane defense, Taylor said.

“You can’t really run away from him, because he chases you down,” Taylor said, “and you can’t run right at him, because nine times out 10, he’s going to beat the block and make the tackle anyway, or he’s going to blow it up so bad that everyone else gets (in there.)”

While Lunsford plays the bulk of his time on the defensive side, no matter his role, Taylor said Lunsford will continue to positively influence the Redskins.

“He makes everybody a little bit better around him,” Taylor said.


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