AN: You bring up the offense, and the transition to the new staff under coach Shields. Is his version of the triple option much different from what coach Walsh and coach Brock tried to install here last season?
CB: There isn't a lot of difference, there really is not…they are basically the same plays. There are different aspects, and there are obviously going to be some intricacies of one offense that are different from the other, but for the main part they are very similar. The reads are basically the same, and because the defense can really only defend the option a certain way, you make the decision based off of what they try to do…in that aspect they are similar.
AN: Tell me about the Ali Villanueva experiment at wide receiver. A lot of people think he's just going to be a decoy out there, but you're convinced he can help the team, right?
CB: Oh yea, he's a big target and you can't miss him. The coaches would not have moved him [from the offensive line] if they didn't think he was going to be a very good weapon at receiver, and I think he will be. He's not the fastest guy at receiver, but he is quick enough to get the job done. He has very solid hands too, and he catches the ball well. I think with enough practice he can learn the small things at receiver that will set him apart from the average guy out there. I think Ali has a chance to do that because he is a good enough athlete to learn how to do those things.
AN: What about turnovers? This team has been one of the worst in the country at holding onto the ball over the last three years, and I know you have struggled with holding onto the ball at some key moments. What is the coaching staff doing to help you and the rest of the team in that area?
CB: [The coaches] have really been working hard on making sure we maintain possession of the ball with just as far as how we grip it or how we carry it or how we pitch it…things like that. Whenever we are in possession of the ball we want to stay in possession of the ball, and we really worked hard on that during the spring and I think it showed during the spring game…I don't remember us turning the ball over except for interceptions, so we've really worked on protecting the football and carrying it properly and things like that.
AN: Does the talk about Trent Steelman bother you? It seems like everywhere you turn these days, fans are ready to throw you under the bus and name him the quarterback of the future…
CB: People say things, but he has never taken a snap. That's the thing, he has never proved himself against another Division I team, so he has got a lot to prove in two or three weeks…but I wouldn't say I'm worried. I just control and worry about what I can control as far as taking care of myself and making sure I'm in shape and doing the right things…the competition will work itself out.
AN: Have you noticed a real change in attitude around the team and around campus since coach Ellerson took over?
CB: Definitely around the team. Hopefully we can change the attitude around campus because of how successful we are this fall, but I think we've definitely turned the corner as far as how we are preparing [for the season] and with our mindset…we know that we need to win and we need to win now, and we're really working hard to make sure that that is a reality in the fall.
Adam Nettina welcomes reader comments and feedback. He can be reached at AdamNettina[at]gmail.com.