One of the factors in the Brownwood Lions’ remarkable turnaround from last year’s 4-6 finish is junior Kris Hobbs’ play at the nose guard position.
Originally a linebacker in his first varsity season in 2018 – which was also head coach Sammy Burnett’s first season at the helm of his his alma mater – Hobbs acts as a major catalyst for one of the toughest defenses in Texas. And the unit has been helping to sustain currently undefeated Brownwood in its impressive string of wins.
“[Kris] is a vital part of that being a nose guard,” Burnett told Texas Scorecard. “He does an outstanding job, works hard and plays extremely fast. He’s an extremely strong young man with a nose for the football.”
Hobbs, who stands 6-foot and weighs 225 pounds, said that he brings a lot of speed to his current position.
In six games, Brownwood has surrendered just six points and about 240 yards, with three of the team’s victories being shutouts. Hobbs himself chipped in more than 40 tackles, recovered at least one fumble, and is a contributor to the Lions’ sack count.
“I think this year I’m more prepared,” the second-year starter said. “As we went into the offseason, I got stronger and faster. In my sophomore year, I was excited. I was pretty good, but this year is a lot better for me.”
Burnett attributes the defense’s success to the players simply “doing their part,” in addition to being extremely fast, knowledgeable of the scheme, and disciplined.
“We play with a nastiness, is what we like to call it,” the coach said. “It’s clean, it’s healthy, but we’re ferocious to the football. We try to get 11 men to the ball at all times. We just play extremely fast and understand the scheme we’re playing in.”
“It’s about being more physical than other teams, but playing smart with controlled anger,” he said. “It’s what helps our defense out a lot.”
Burnett would not blame anyone who likens Brownwood’s defense to those fielded by the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, two teams that won the Super Bowl by keeping offenses away from the end zone.
Hobbs’ relationship with many of his teammates goes as far back as to when they were in elementary school.
“I grew up with all the people I play with now,” he said. “We had a friendship since I was in first grade, second grade.”
The nose guard credits Burnett’s coaching staff for “pushing us as hard as they do.
“It helps us out a lot,” Hobbs said. “We have a good relationship.”
When asked what brought forth the change for the better, Burnett acknowledged that the Lions are more steadfast in his vision and philosophy now than they were when he first accepted the head coaching job.
“Over the course of a year through the hard work and effort that we put in as a coaching staff and a group of kids, we’ve been able to build relationships with each other to where the kids trust us as coaches and what we’re telling them,” he said. “We know our kids better … I think just having a year to grind and work hard together and to build those trusting relationships based on love and family, those kids know we care about them. They thrive off that. We know they’re going to go out there and do everything they can to please us.”
Burnett explained that when he and his assistants shifted Hobbs from linebacker to nose guard, it took time for the underclassman to “buy into the philosophy of us dropping him down there and putting his hand in the dirt.” The coach’s vision of Hobbs being a powerful run stopper then came into fruition.
“He’s become an outstanding nose guard and is extremely dominant against the run,” Burnett said.
With Hobbs successfully disrupting backfields like clockwork, the coach added, his teammates Theo Bryant, Ezequiel Ibarra and Rowdee Gregory are able to perform their jobs effectively as well.
According to Hobbs, he and the players have grown into adamant believers of their coaches’ approach to the game.
“Last year, I don’t know how many people bought in, but I know for sure that this year 100 percent are all in,” he said.
Just do not expect Hobbs, who hones his craft by working out with his brother and models his style of play after that of the Bears’ Khalil Mack, to stop being the man in the middle any time soon.
“I’d rather be a nose guard because we’re winning right now,” he said. “Whatever helps the team out the most, that’s what I’d rather do.”
While Hobbs is not on any college scouts’ radar just yet, Burnett believes he will gain attention as he continues to play.
“He’s just starting to get his name out there,” the coach said. “It’ll happen, that’s for sure.”
Hobbs, who also plays baseball for Brownwood, is determined to deliver the Lions a state championship, which would put a nice exclamation point to a year-long climb from 4-6.