How is your group looking less than a week before the season opener?
Coach Jim Jeffcoat: “They are coming together. We have depth that I haven't had since I've been here. I have seven guys that I can rotate through and that is exciting. We're going to develop more and more, and we have younger guys starting to come along, too.”
How much rust has Josh Tupou had to work off, and what type of strides has he made this preseason?
“He had rust, there is no question about it. The biggest thing with him is getting back in proper shape and Josh is working hard on it. He is doing extra, before and after practice, on conditioning. He is getting back to a lot of the things he did previously and he just has to continue to work on those things. He has made some strides, there is no question about it. I'm excited to see what he does on Friday.”
Tupou seems to be the perfect fit for the nose tackle role in your defense...
“For power teams, he is perfect. And even for some of the spread teams, he'll be perfect. You do want some versatility in there, though, and we have it. We have guys with different body types and different strengths that we can move around. You'll face different offenses during the season so it is good to be able to utilize Josh and other guys in that role.”
Going off of what you just said there, it sounds like Jase Franke will be kind of a change of pace in that role?
“Yes, that is what I am looking at, you want a change of pace because everybody gets used to facing Tupou and Tupou wears them down. Then you have a different type of guy come in and they are not respecting that.”
Timothy Coleman is another change of pace type that moved from outside linebacker to the defensive line this spring... what have you seen from him this preseason?
“Tim has made a big jump, no question about it. He is in the rotation. I always thought he would be a good defensive lineman and he has proven that. He has gotten more confident and more mature and those things are going to help him become a player that we can depend on.”
What about Samson Kafovalu?
“He is bigger than he was before. He is so strong and so physical. Similar to Josh Tupou, with Samson it is all about conditioning. We run gassers after practice to try to make sure those guys are improving in that area.”
Jordan Carrell made a lot of plays last year. It seemed like if he could just wrap up the ball carrier more consistently he would have all-conference potential?
“Yeah, I tell him all the time, 'If you got those wrap ups, you would lead the league in tackles for a loss.' He might even lead the country. He understands that is something he needs to improve on, so he has really worked on that. We'll keep pushing that and really emphasizing that for another week to make sure we're good tacklers because that is crucial.”
Leo Jackson also played a lot of football for you last year. Is he a Steady Eddy type?
“Yeah, he is. We just have to get him healthy and get him back out there. He had a tremendous preseason camp and unfortunately he tweaked himself a little bit, but he should be fine. We're expecting him to do the things he showed early in camp during the season.”
Are there any other players I haven't asked you about that you plan to have in your defensive line rotation this fall?
“Yeah, Brett Tonz has an opportunity. Brett has done some nice things. We would like to give him an opportunity to get some game reps in to see how he does. They are all competing. Even Lyle Tuiloma, Eddy Lopez and Frank Umu are getting better. And that is what we want. They are going to be good players. We have a good problem. We are starting to depth and that is what we need.”