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Longview's Maxey providing physical play at free safety

By Jimmy Carter
May 7, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Jeremy Powell is likely Longview's most physical runner.

But the senior fullback didn't run with authority on his first carry of spring practice, a fullback stretch play called Loco 37.

"I was kind of tip-toeing around," Powell said.

Stephan Maxey made him pay. The senior free safety filled the hole and made a big hit on the 5-foot-6, 206-pound back.

"I wasn't expecting it," Powell said. "It made me kind of turn around and start running after that."

Powell is far from the only player who has taken a big hit from Maxey this spring. He's racked them up against Lobo running backs, receivers and blockers trying to take him on.

He's had an opportunity to make more hits this spring after moving from strong safety to free safety. And that's OK with him.

"I get crazy on the field," Maxey said. "I really don't have an attitude on the field besides mad. I do good when I'm mad. I'm just thinking about making some big hits."

Maxey will be the only three-year starter on the defense this fall and is part of a secondary that should be the strength of the unit.

He's been able to make a smooth transition to safety, mainly because it's a position where he recorded 88 tackles and two forced fumbles while starting as a sophomore. He then finished with 72 tackles and four forced fumbles while playing strong safety last season.

"It's kind of a familiar transition moving back to the middle," secondary coach Chris Lashley said. "What's big is he has more responsibilities playing the middle. He's a run player, he's a pass player and he makes everybody right up front. If a linebacker's wrong, he's got to make them right.

"So it takes a little savvy. But he's handled it well."

Maxey is trying to step in and fill the role left by graduating senior Corey Bartley, who earned all-state honors and was named News-Journal All-East Texas Defensive Player of the Year after a stellar year in which he finished with 138 tackles, 21 pass breakups, seven interceptions and six blocked kicks.

Maxey has better physical tools than his predecessor. He's 6-foot, 180 pounds with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, while Bartley is only 5-foot-7, 165 pounds.

But Bartley had great instincts and playmaking ability, key skills that resulted in numerous big plays at the back of the defense last year. Maxey is using spring practice to readjust to his old position.

"Corey was such a valuable player to the defense," Lashley said. "He was not a big-time talker. Steph is a little more vocal. Corey just plays. But they're just real hard to compare. They're similar handling the run game and being able to fit.

"It's kind of the like the quarterback for us. He has to make sure everybody's lined up and in the right coverage. He's the last line of the defense. But he's done a really good job."

Maxey hopes a big senior season will pave the way for him to play at a BCS college program. He visited TCU this spring and regularly receives mail from Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and numerous other big schools.

And now he's back playing a position he projects to in college.

"I like free safety better because I like to come downhill," Maxey said.

His teammates can attest to that.

<em>(Follow Jimmy Carter on Twitter @jicartersports)</em>



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