Brooks praises new defense, new attitudes

Arizona has a new defense and a new defensive coordinator. Gone is the double-eagle flex, and in is the 3-4. Goodbye "Desert Swarm", hello "Wrecking Crew". Players have been praising Mike Hankwitz's defensive philosophy, but according to Darrell Brooks, it is his attitude, not his aptitude, that makes all the difference.

"I've been saying this all along, it is the motivation and excitement and the emotion we're playing with. I know the last few years," said safety Darrell Brooks. "At least the three years that I've been here, the defense hasn't been all that emotional. I know the guys meant well, but coach Hank (Hankwitz) has emphasized it daily that he wants us to play out there with emotion and excitement. We want to be out there and make big plays."

Hankwitz came to Arizona after R.C. Slocum and his staff were fired at Texas A&M. When Larry Mac Duff left for the NFL, Hankwitz was available to return to work with his friend John Mackovic. The new defensive coordinator has truly made an impression on Brooks and his defensive teammates.

"It's something that has been missing the past couple of years," Brooks confessed. "I know it has built more and more excitement and that it's made players want it that much more."

Hankwitz is fiery on the field, but according to Brooks he's quite laid back off the field. Brooks was actually a little surprised at the coach's on-field demeanor after initially meeting him away from the gridiron.

"He's a real calm, laid back guy, but when he's out on that field, he's real intense," said Brooks. "He coaches with that fire that he wants you to play with."

Brooks says he and his teammates are fired up and can't wait for game day to come. The starting safety missed spring ball due to shoulder problems and is ready to hit someone in another uniform.

"We're excited" Brooks said. "We've been held in a cage for the last four months now. The excitement's been building. I'm just ready to get out on the field and play."

The defense has been watching a lot of film on UTEP and knows that the quarterback who takes the field at first may not be the signal caller who finishes things. Former walk-on Orlando Cruz will get the start but if he falters a passer with a nice pedigree is prepared to step in. Back-up Jordan Palmer is talented, even if he is less well-known than his brother, Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer.

"We prepared for both quarterbacks," Brooks said confidently. "If the young guy (Palmer) gets in there we'll throw a lot of things at him. We have to go out there with the mentality that we are going to run our defense. Run it soundly and put some pressure on the quarterback and get some turnovers."

The defense is not the only faction of this team with a new attitude. Last year the team was split apart by factions who were either for or against coach John Mackovic. This year there seems to be a new sense of unity and togetherness.

"I just know that I have all the confidence in the world in every player on this roster this year," Brooks said. "Whoever goes in there I'm behind him 100%. Whether it's a quarterback, linemen or receiver, I just know everybody is ready to play out here and go get this victory." The defense had its share of difficulties last season, but a new coach and new attitude has the unit thinking positive.

"On the defensive side we just know that whoever is out there we have to have the confidence that they are going to go out there and do the job. We have to go out there and play soundly and shut people down."

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