"I think the offense played well at the beginning of the practice," Vic So'oto said. "But when we went into our situational part of practice, like overtime, two-minute drill and blue zone, the defense did really well. We were able to stop them and keep them out of the end zone.
"I think it's when we're able to get all 11 players out there just playing football and being physical [that] it's a lot easier for the defense to play as opposed to skeli. Skeli is more of an offensive drill and so is the 11-on-11 drill, but when it comes down to really playing football where we can be physical and assert what gives us the advantage, things change.
"It's tough for us when we come out here with no pads because this is football and we're supposed to hit. Last Friday it was really fun because that was the first time I really got the chance to hit someone and take them to the ground. I'm really looking forward to this Saturday."
When the defense is able to be more physical, it has had greater success. One goal Coach Mendenhall had this spring was to not only work on developing the positions - or position mastery as the coaches call it - but to also get through spring camp with few injuries. Finding the balance between developing the athletes while not putting the defense at too much of a disadvantage in their own development has been key.
"So far we've only had one guy out this spring, which was a freak accident," said So'oto, referring to the injury to Terrance Hooks. "As far as our goals, I think we've accomplished them to this point. There is always reason for improvement and fall camp will help with that for our two-deep roster."
The developing the defense has been an everyday process. Coaches will meet with the players for personal development and position development to fix what's wrong and point out what's right. Out on the practice field is where they focus on improving by putting the adjustments into practice.
"Every day we have team meetings where we go over what our mistakes were last practice," So'oto said. "We want the next practice to be more crisp than the last. We look at how we want our next practice to be and make plans to accomplish those things to constantly improve in the short amount of time we have. This school is unlike any other and we do a certain amount of stuff in such a short amount of time, and it comes down to precision, effort and constantly building in order to achieve the results we want. It's all about doing things the right way."
To help accomplish the many things the coaches want done in such a short period of time, leadership council members take an active role in relaying to the players what the coaches want done on the field.
"We have our leadership council, which is made up of a leader from every position," said So'oto. "It's sort of his job to make sure we know what we are doing even before the coaches tell us, so we go in and watch film on our own and [do] extra workouts. We do this to prepare ourselves for next season, next practice and even the next drills. It's our responsibility to know what is going to happen even before it happens."
Total Blue Sports caught up with Coach Mendenhall to learn how his defense has developed, what the goals were for spring, and how the team polished up on the more physical side of the game that was limited throughout much of spring.