The defensive MVP in the A-Day game last April, Herring again showed what he could in Jordan-Hare Stadium during Saturday's scrimmage. Catching the eye of Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik with his play and aggressive style, Herring says he thought it was going to be a good day when he arrived at the stadium.
"I felt good out there," Herring notes. "I think most of my assignments were taken care of. Everything is coming together. The whole secondary as a group played well. We didn't give up any deep balls, which is a good thing. We gave up the long run and we'll have to go back and check on it to see who didn't fit the gap right on that. Other than that I think we made some strides."
A former quarterback for Opelika High School, who spent the majority of his time on offense, Herring made the switch last fall to defense full time and was one of the top scout team players for the Tigers last fall while redshirting. Although he played quarterback and knew his high school offense forwards and backwards, he says it didn't really translate to helping him understand things from across the line of scrimmage.
"It's something that I thought being a quarterback would help out a lot and it does to an extent," Herring says. "But when I played quarterback we mostly ran the ball. Just reading run or pass and seeing threats, that's something that you have to be on the defensive side of the ball to even get a look at. It's taken me about a year now. I think I'm coming along, but I need to keep improving each day."
Will Herring in Saturday's scrimmage.
Following a full year of playing defensive back, Herring says that he's improved greatly in a lot of areas, such as coverage skills and tackling. The one aspect of his game that has come on more than any other is one the average fan might not think about right away, but has a profound impact on how well a defensive back plays.
"Just having an idea of what's going to take place before it takes place," Herring says. "That comes from knowing formations, knowing threats like passing threats. It's not just running to the ball and hitting it. That's what you have to do, but at the same time you have to think fast and react. That's when it starts to slow down, when you get a feel for what's about to happen. You get a feel for what's going on and you're reaction time picks up a lot."
With less than two weeks left until the season opener against USC on national television, Herring says the excitement of challenging for a starting job is getting more fun by the day. In a battle with Karibi Dede and Andrew Letts for the starting spot at free safety following the move of Donnay Young to strong safety, Herring says the battles will only make the unit better when they're done.
"It's exciting," says Herring, who can also play strong safety. "It's competitive out there. We have four other guys right now fighting for the same spot I'm fighting for. It's exciting and we want to just push each other and make this team the best we can. When people look at the defensive side of the ball they see a lack of experience in the backfield. We're just going to have to step it up, everybody hold their own, and get it going."