OBERLIN — On the football field, communication is critically important for a defense.
When you have 11 guys with one goal — stopping the opposing offense — everyone has to know his job while also understanding what the other players are doing.
Adjustments have to be made, sometimes on the fly, and everyone has to be on the same page to make those adjustments successfully.
When fifth-year Oberlin coach Jay Anderson leads his team onto the field for its season opener at Kalamazoo College today at 1 p.m., his defense will feature a pair of starting cornerbacks that have been on the same page their entire lives.
Jabree and Jubreel Hason are twins who have been playing football together since they were 4 years old.
The juniors from Sicklorville, N.J., will enter the season as the only pair of twins in the country starting at cornerback for the same college football team.
When they finished their careers at Timber Creek High School, the Hason brothers looked for a school where they had the chance to play early, play often and play together.
“It’s very special,” Jabreel said of playing with his brother. “We’ve always done a lot of things together, so this was something we knew we wanted to do going into college. Coming to Oberlin we not only had the opportunity to play early, but to be on a team that would welcome our being twins.
“Playing together on the same field is like how it was when we were growing up. Having him on the field with me is always a special thing.”
They push each other in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom.
“We’re neck-and-neck with everything,” Jabree said. “When we max out, he’ll hit a weight and that will inspire me to hit that weight. We compete with each other for numbers and it really helps us to push as hard as we can.”
They also hold each other accountable.
“We’re very similar. We have a lot of the same interests, the same major (economics) and we room together,” Jubreel said. “Overall we have a lot of the same passions and same goals. It helps having somebody to monitor what I’m doing, and vice versa.
“That really helps us to keep on top of our goals and headed in the right direction.”
Justin Godfrey, a junior defensive lineman from Westlake, thinks the communication the Hasons share has rubbed off on the rest of the Yeoman defense.
“I grew up with six older brothers and I never had what Bree and Brill have on that field,” Godfrey said. “They have an instinct and I think you see it when they play through how they bring that communication to our defense.
“We’re a very communicative defense this year. When we get off the sidelines we all have something to say to each other. That’s something to be appreciated and I think the twins are a huge part of that.”
Jubreel has 17 career starts at Oberlin. Last season he was third on the team in tackles with 78, including a career-high 17 against Allegheny on Oct. 14. Jabree started seven games last season, ending the year with 45 tackles, seven passes defended and one interception.
“Jabrill played a lot his freshman year, Jabree didn’t play a ton,” Anderson said. “This year we were real confident, based on how Jabrill played and how similar they are, that Jabree was going to be a real good player for us.
“They’re students of the game. They care, they work hard, they’re great students in the classroom, the study hard, they play extremely hard and they’re really good in the weight room.
“They really are well-rounded student athletes and they’re going to continue to get better over the next two years. It’s going to be exciting to watch these guys continue to grow.”
The Hason brothers have two years left to play together, and they want to enjoy every game.
“I don’t know how it feels not to play with a twin,” Jabree said. “My whole life I’ve been playing on the same field with him. It’s been an awesome experience, seeing each other develop over the years and have that bond grow stronger.
“We only have 20 more games left, barring injury, and we want to make the most out of it.”
The Yeomen are coming off a 4-6 season in which they won their first two, lost six in a row and then won their final two. With all-conference candidate quarterback Zach Taylor, a junior, growing into one of the top offensive players in the North Coast Athletic Conference, and a bevy of experienced receivers returning, Oberlin should be able to put points on the board.
Taylor set the school’s single-season total yardage record last season, rolling up 2,525 yards in just nine games. He threw for 17 touchdowns and rushed for six.
“Offensively we have some talent, and a great blend of youth and experience,” Anderson said. “From the moment I started recruiting (Taylor) and the moment he stepped on this campus, we could see his talent. We love his demeanor. He really exudes confidence and leadership.”
The defense will feature an experienced front four, led by Godfrey and senior captain Kenny Williams. Jarrett Smith had four sacks last season as a freshman while North Ridgeville graduate Jack Lesniak is expected to see increased playing time.
“Jack is a local guy that’s been getting better and better,” Anderson said. “His time is now. We’re excited to see our front four get after it this year.”