Verdon Comfortable with Position Change

When you are a three-year starter at your position, resistance to change can be expected. Nevertheless, it did not take much convincing for this fifth-year senior to switch from defensive end to defensive tackle, in order to bolster the maroon and gold's front four on defense.

"I sat down with the coaches," recalled Jimmy Verdon, "and they said that they wanted the four best defensive linemen on the field at the same time. I agreed, because I'm all about the team winning. I think it will be a perfect chance for me to show that I can do different stuff as a defensive tackle, and not just rush the quarterback like I used to do." Verdon added that his off-season conditioning regimen didn't change due to his role change. "I was still doing the same drills, working on my strength and speed."

The senior started in 26 of his 37 games played, and was honored as the team's best defensive lineman in 2003. In that year, he also notched the first two interceptions of his career, to go along with his 44 total tackles and three sacks. Last season, he broke his career total tackles in a game tackles, when he amassed nine stops in a win against Utah State last season.

The 6-4 280 Verdon underwent shoulder surgery following last season, which sidelined him during spring practice. "I'm feeling good, and I'm very excited for the season," he said. "I had surgery on my shoulder, but I'm perfectly fine – good as new. I feel way better than I did before, and most people after surgery can't say that."

The defensive line has drawn heavy criticism in last year's campaign, and for some it is still perceived as the weakest link on defense coming into 2004. As the most experienced player on the line, how does Verdon respond to such opinions? "Honestly, I think our unit is strong," he stated. "Everybody is saying this and that about the defensive line, but I think we have four of the best linemen in the Pac-10. Everything starts up front with the defensive line, and if we keep together and play like I know we can, we'll be fine. Those people who talk about the defensive line will change their mind later."

With his seniority also comes the natural leader tag. Verdon chooses to exhibit his style of leadership in a way he feels comfortable with, and he believes that this approach is an effective one. "I'm more of a leader by action," he explained, "and if something needs to be said I'll say it. I'm just gonna keep being the way I am, and not change anything I do."

Verdon is one of 12 seniors that are about to partake in the Camp Tontozona experience for the very last time. He told us he's enthusiastic, albeit in a different way, for the final trek up the hill. "I'm Excited!" he exclaimed. "Get it over with (smile)! A lot of people say that they'll never go up there again to camp, and it's funny because you always see old teammates come up there and watch. They don't like practicing in camp, but they always like coming to visit."

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