DevilsDigest: Going into the season opener, how would you evaluate the safeties group?
Dan Fidler: "We still have a lot of work to do. You obviously get a lot of leadership with Riccardo (Stewart). He has played a lot of games, and the key for him is to stay healthy. We have a plan for him to stay healthy, and we need him because he's our leader back there, and our biggest hitter."
"Manny (Emmanuel) Franklin is a fifth year senior who played a lot of football, but not a lot at starter and is a first year safety. He adapted well, and had a good camp. Athletically he's everything you're looking for and now the key is how he performs in a game. So we have to wait and see, but in practice he does all the things you want him to do."
"Josh Barrett started out (fall practice) good, then went into a freshman slump, but has come on strong in the last week. His upside is unbelievable, and I think he'll get better each week. This is the first time he's doing all this in practice, because last year he was on the scout team, and he missed all of spring ball. His learning curve should be great. He's going to be a very good player, and has all the tools you're looking for."
"Maurice London has improved since the spring. He played two years at the junior college level so he's experienced. He's having a good camp. Daniel Varvel is our fifth guy. He needs to improve. London and Varvel will get a lot of chances on special teams, and they need just to prove that they can play when given the chance."
DD: Would you agree that the 4-3 alignment would help your unit to improve over last year?
DF: "We've made the system easier, and there's a lot less techniques for the guys to execute. It allows them to play faster, and that's always a positive. When you get down to it, the change isn't as big as people think it is. But it does specialize the safeties, because now they're always high, and not high and low. We're playing left and right safety like we did last year. When you have a free safety and strong safety you're playing three-deep, where one player is down like a strong safety, and the free safety is more in the middle. With the left and right safety we're playing more like a quarters team, and they're doing the identical stuff to last year."
DD: What were your goals going into the pre-season and how many of those goals have been accomplished?
DF: "The number goal is for everyone to learn their job. The learning curve initially was good, and then like it always happens, you get tired mentally and physically from practicing so much. We still need to improve in just doing your job."
"The next goal is what we callspeed on ball, which is just all out relentless effort. We've been very good in that regard in camp, but it wasn't as good as we wanted to be in the final scrimmage."
DD: In terms of pass coverage and run stopping, which aspect do you feel your group is better at right now?
DF: "Each individual guy has his strengths. Riccardo is really good in the run game. Manny is better in the pass game. Josh is equal in both…so it's hard to say as a group if they're better against the run or the pass. Each individual player is better in one side over the other."
Q&A With Safeties Coach Dan Fidler
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