STILLWATER, Okla. —
C.J. Citizen isn’t exactly the strong, silent type. Then again, that kind of comes with territory of being a linebacker for the Stillwater High School football team.
But whether it’s getting in quarterback Braxton Noble’s face after a sack in practice or flashing his contagious smile afterward, there’s one thing Citizen knows — there aren’t a whole lot of positions deeper and more talented than what the Pioneers have at linebacker.
And he’s not afraid to let anybody know.
“You got to have that attitude,” Citizen said. “As linebackers, we think of ourselves as the best on the defense and practically on the field. I’m going to go ahead and say that the linebackers are the best on the field.”
Citizen’s opinions may be brash — and even shocking to some — but they aren’t unwarranted. Even Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard, who has taken over the role as the coach of the secondary, won’t argue that the Pioneers are loaded at linebacker.
“I think the defensive backs might disagree,” Barnard said jokingly. “I don’t resent (Citizen’s statement) at all. I think that every one of our defensive groups should feel that way. Every one of our groups should think that they’re the strength of the team and that’s the attitude that we want them to have. I don’t know where the most talent is and I don’t know if it matters because we all have to work together as a unit.”
It isn’t just a new attitude that this year’s linebacking corp brings to the table. It’s also a new defensive strategy.
The Pioneers are switching from a 4-3 defense to more of a 3-4 base defense. The result? Guys like Cameron Mayberry and Citizen are using their speed and roaming from sideline to sideline.