Secondary still a work in progress for Soul

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Secondary still a work in progress for Soul

Make more plays.

That's the consensus among members of the Soul's secondary. That's what they need to do. That's what their focusing on -- making more plays.

Any defensive back would love to record 12 interceptions in one season. But 12 total interceptions as a team, which is what the Soul has this season, well, that's a problem.

The Soul are 6-5 after 11 games, but if you talk to the members of the secondary unit, they'll tell you they could have made more plays to put the team in a better position to have a better record.

Veteran defensive back LaRico Stevenson was the first point out the positives within the secondary. He said the unit has the athleticism to compete and be among the best in the AFL. He understands there is talent, but he also knows improvement is needed.

"We're still learning," Stevenson, who leads the team with four interceptions, said.

He wouldn't point to chemistry as the problem. Rayshaun Kizer went a different route, too.

The Soul are eighth in the AFL in turnovers with 20 total. That's the good news. The bad news is they have the fifth-worst pass defense, allowing opponents to average 263.7 passing yards.

Kizer, who is second on the team with three interceptions blamed his "lack of concentration" for not making plays when he needed to. As unit though...

"We are not making the plays like we did last season," Kizer said. "I know, I can speak for myself, I've dropped a couple of picks, you know; when the opportunity presents itself you got to make it because normally, the next play, they're going to end up scoring."

Rookie defensive back James Romain mentioned confidence as the reason the Soul have not been able to create more turnovers in the air.

"We're just not catching them," said Romain. "Once we start catching them and getting that confidence ... picks will start rolling in and quarterbacks will be real sad."

Soul head coach Clint Dolezel knows his secondary can do better. In fact, he saw just what they can do two weeks ago against the AFL's best team, the Arizona Rattlers.

The Soul forced Nick Davila, easily the best quarterback in the league this season, to throw a season-high three interceptions. In that game, you could see that confidence was there. The concentration, too.

"We meshed front to back," Dolezel said. "We put pressure. We had the right coverage at the right time. We got pressure when we didn't have great coverage. When we did have great coverage, we had pressure, too."

Last week against New Orleans was a different story. Not only did the Soul not record an interception, though the opportunities were there, they allowed the VooDoo, a team with the third-worst passing offense, to put up 301 yards in the air. For the season, New Orleans only averages 237.4 passing yards.

Kizer didn't sugarcoat his thoughts on the fact the Soul only recorded 12 interceptions this season.

"I think it's kind of bad," he said."... As a team, right now, we have 12 after 11 games! I mean, one pick a game. We got to get that up, especially going into the second half of the season and the playoffs. We have to get our turnovers up in the secondary."

Thing is, though the secondary haven't capitalized on forcing turnovers, they haven't really hurt the team all that much, either.

The Soul are seventh in the league in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score 52.8 points. For all the plays the secondary didn't make after 11 games, the unit also made stops when they had to. Teams who try and convert fourth downs on the Soul are only successful 33.3 percent of the time.

"That's the good news,"Dolezel said "We haven't been making those plays, but we're still right in ball games. When we start making those plays, then maybe we'll start putting some points on the board and beating teams by more than just a couple scores."

Kizer was told that due to the Soul's low number in the interceptions category, teams may want to attack them in the air from start to finish. Forget those short dump passes. They'll go deep early and often.

"I like it," Kizer said. "The more the ball is in the air, the more chances we get to make plays. It benefits us. If they want to attack us in the air, tell them to bring it on."

Kizer asked, so the Soul just might receive. And the secondary unit may keep receiving those aerial attacks until they make plays consistently to stop it.

"Right now it's just it's just trusting in each other to make the play," Romain said. "Once that clicks, we're going to be good."

Soul assigns former Villanova star Poppy Livers to roster

Soul assigns former Villanova star Poppy Livers to roster

The Soul have assigned former Villanova wide receiver Poppy Livers to their roster. Livers was selected after attending an open tryout last month.

“We had over 200 guys at our open tryout and Poppy definitely stood out,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “We are excited to get Poppy into training camp and hopefully have him confirm our thoughts that his skill set can lead to a phenomenal career in the Arena Football League.” 

In his final season at Villanova, Livers had 67 receptions for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He showed his versatility by rushing seven times for 67 yards and taking 17 punt returns for 129 yards and a touchdown. 

The 5-foot-7 wideout was named Second-Team All-CAA and team captain his final year with the Wildcats. He expressed his gratitude to the Soul for the opportunity they have given him. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to get an opportunity to continue my football career at the next level, all while staying in the Philadelphia area, the city that has been so great to me,” Livers said. “I am looking forward to getting into training camp and proving that my best football days are still ahead of me.”

Livers will join rookie offensive lineman John Kling and defensive lineman John Sheehy as the few who were selected from the open tryout to compete for a roster spot. 

James Romain, Dwayne Hollis will return to Soul roster for 2017 season

James Romain, Dwayne Hollis will return to Soul roster for 2017 season

Two defensive backs that helped the Soul win the 2016 ArenaBowl Championship will be returning to the team.

James Romain and Dwayne Hollis will both be back in 2017.

“James and Dwayne are two of the best defensive backs in the Arena Football League,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said in a statement. “Having them back gives us the talent and experience to continue to be one of the best defenses in the Arena Football League.”

The Soul led the AFL in interceptions last year with 25. Hollis had eight interceptions, while Romain had five.

Hollis has recorded 101 total tackles, 13 pass break-ups and nine interceptions for 156-yards and three touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Soul. He was also named Second-Team All-Arena DB last season. Romain was named a First-Team All-Arena DB in 2015.

The Soul will open up the 2017 season on the road against the Tampa Bay Storm at the Amaile Arena on April 15.