Michael Alisa Talks Move to Linebacker

It was a broken arm after the fourth game of the 2013 season that placed Michael Alisa on the sidelines with a medical redshirt. Upon being cleared to return to the field he found he would do so as a linebacker, despite playing running back for the past three seasons. With spring camp winding down TotalBlueSports.com checked in with Alisa to see how he's coming along.

Everyone knows the offensive guys get all the glory. Making dazzling catches, breaking off big runs, and scoring touchdowns elicits all the praise from fans. Former running back Michael Alisa remembers what it was like to be in that position but holds no feelings of envy now that he's been made a shift to playing linebacker.

"No, no, not at all," Alisa said. "It's kind of funny because I'm standing on the defensive side and I'm like, ‘Oh, he should have cut left on that one! Come on!' [I'm] yelling at the [running backs] or the receivers."

There's still some praise and glory-inducing opportunities to be had on the defensive side of the ball. However, one has to be an intricate part of the defense as one who thrives in a dominating manner. Alisa is currently working hard to get to that point despite the level of competition and challenges that lie ahead.

"It's been a bit of a learning curve," said Alisa. "I thought the plays would come back faster than they have. In terms of how my body movement is, dropping back, making simple reads, and actually playing, that's pretty natural for me. The plays are where I'm lacking. I'm still learning the defense."

It's going to be a long and difficult process, but Alisa isn't one to back down from a challenge. He's had spring and will have the summer to prepare and improve. Alisa has placed a big focus on making strides towards developing within the defense.

"I feel like a tendency for a lot of teams is after spring ball you lose a step," said Alisa. "You say, ‘Great job,' everyone pats each other on the back, ‘Let's relax now and get into coast mode.' You know, over summer we won't miss a day but we're coasting. I think that's a tendency that we have to avoid over the summer. A lot of it is going to come from team leadership. I think that's the key to having a good team is having players just step up and have those player run practices."

A goal of Alisa's is to take full advantage of every opportunity given the limited amount of eligibility he has left. In order to fuel his efforts to improve as a linebacker he's going to take the competitive nastiness that developed between the offense and defense this spring into the summer to further motivate him.

"We kind of got to keep that feud we have going between the offense and defense," Alisa said. "Because that's what makes guys strive to be there early on a Thursday morning, instead of sleeping in, so they can prove themselves to the guys across the line of scrimmage."

There is a fine line between being a team consisting of a band of brothers and building and maintaining a competitive edge with one another. Alisa understands that balance but hopes the team doesn't lose that nastiness they had for one another over the summer.

"You have to have that," said Alisa. "If you don't have that your team is going to suck," said Alisa with a chuckle. "You're team is not going to be good. You want that competitive nature and kind of that nasty attitude towards each other because that's what makes guys go the extra mile to be good."

As spring camp winds down and looks towards the summer season, where players are then looked to further their development on their own, Alisa doesn't feel keeping that intensity the team developed over spring will be an issue.

"I think most players at this level have that [intensity], and people in general are really competitive, but most players at this level you have to have that to get here in the first place," said Alisa. "Then you take it to a team level, the culture just feeds that even more. To me the more intense the rivalry is between the offense and defense, the better your team will be in the season, because they're used to that grind that you have in a game. That's the best way to simulate the competitive nature that you have in a live game."

Second Team Defensive Line

Alisa shared his observations on the progression of the second team defensive line. He feels there is talent there but it just needs more time to fully develop to reach its full potential.

"The thing about our defensive line is that they are extremely talented," said Alisa. "Our second string defensive line is TK [Theodore King], JonRyheem Peoples, and I think it's the offensive lineman who moved to the defensive side, Josh Carter. They've been coming along great."

JonRyheem Peoples

He came from the small town of Rigby, Idaho but he could soon be playing on the big stage. JonRyheem Peoples is slowly making a name for himself and is a player that comes up from time to time during interviews. Alisa was no exception and spoke highly about Peoples' spring camp progression.

"Jon, we call him big JonRyheem because he's huge and he's athletic. When he wants to go, he goes," said Alisa. "I think his barrier for the past few years was the mental side of the game because he was huge. Maybe he needs to get better cardio, but other than that he is so strong. He just throws offensive linemen. When he wants to do work and just wreak havoc, he does it at will."

During film room evaluation and study, coaches will often play film highlighting plays from practices they want other players to emulate. One player that pops up often during the film room sessions is Peoples.

"We've been watching film in the defensive room," Alisa said. "Every now and then they'll pull up plays of players that they really like and JonRyheem always pops up."

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