DevilsDigest: With the Temple game coming up next week, how are you feeling about the safeties group as a whole?
Dan Fidler: "I feel better than I did in the spring. We made a lot of strides, and some guys really improved over the summer."
DD: When you look at the way the group performed in camp, it looked to be the deepest and most talented group this team has ever had since you've been here. Would you agree?
DF: "Yes and no. Guys have to prove themselves on the field. One thing that we don't have is experienced players that played in many football games. There has only been four career starts combined in the safety group. But we have a lot bigger, athletic type guys than we've had in the past and that really shows up on special teams. We have more guys that can contribute in that area. It remains to be seen how they do on the field, but I feel very confident that they're gonna perform well. They're anxious to get started."
DD: Can you talk about Maurice London? Looks like he followed the typical JC transfer convention where the first year is a struggle and the second year is quite different…
DF: "Definitely. The main thing is knowing what to expect and his attitude standpoint. He's much more mature. Sometimes when you come over from a JC, you come over a little raw and not well trained. So, it's a shock treatment of their body their first year and the learning curve is so great. But he has really stepped it up and has done a good job from a leadership standpoint and has improved greatly."
DD: No one disputes Josh Barrett and his talent, but his durability may still be a question mark. What are your thoughts as Josh enters the season?
DF: "Josh is probably one of the best athletes we have on the team. He's big, he's fast, he's what your prototypical safety should look like. He may be the fastest player on the team. He really has improved his footwork. When he first got here, he was very raw and hasn't done much backpedaling and footwork stuff. Now, he has great feet, great technique and is a very smart player. Unfortunately he has been banged up his first two years here, but there's nothing we can do about that. If he's gonna be durable, we expect great things from him because he can make plays."
DD: Zach Catanese is an example of a player who had a solid spring and has transformed that into a great fall. Can you talk about his progression and development?
DF: "He actually improved more than anyone, from a safety standpoint, ever since I've been here. In the spring he was sort of lost and overwhelmed, but gave great effort. He's like a new man now and he's taking well to coaching. He's a big player that runs very well. He's playing a lot of different spots for us, and could play on all four special teams if we let him. He'll play a lot for us on defense. He has made great strides, and he's very conscientious because he wants to do everything right."
DD: It's common not to know what to expect from a player coming off his redshirt year, but Jeremy Payton is a lot of fun to watch out there and could have a big season…
DF: "He can make a lot of plays. He has good ball skills and good hand-eye coordination. He needs to become more consistent and a better practice player, but he has the ability to make a lot of good plays. He has good instincts when the ball is in the air. We just need to make sure he's consistent because that will carry over to the game."
DD: Derron Ware came in with high expectations because he was not a JC transfer, but a Division I school transfer and someone that already played under Bill Miller. Can you talk about his progress right now, since camp didn't go as well as he probably expected…
DF: "That's correct. He has been out of football for a year, so even though he transferred from a four-year school (Michigan State), he's been on his own the last year. He was lifting and running on his own, and we obviously couldn't monitor what he was doing. He didn't have spring practice, he wasn't here in the summer, and he came in kinda rusty. So he has a lot of catching up to do."
DD: When you look at the change in the defensive scheme from Brent Guy to Bill Miller, how much did it impact your group and what are the safeties doing differently from last year to this year?
DF: "They (the safeties) need to be a lot more versatile than last year. They're asked to do a lot more things in terms of different coverages and schemes. I still think football is football, and if you're a good athlete and competitive – you'll do fine no matter where we put you. They have done a really good job in picking up schemes and terminology. We tried to keep some of the terminology consistent, but when you have a new scheme some things will change. We'll pay a lot of nickel, where last year we never substituted and we never played it."
DD: What are your goals for the safety group as a whole going into the season?
DF: "One is that they will have to cut down on their mental mistakes. Two, pick up the intensity, because you can't simulate the speed of the game in practice. It's not like the NFL where you have four pre-season games before you're gonna play. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of those guys haven't played in a game yet."
Camp T Recap: Safeties Coach Dan Fidler
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