Vincent Rey: It adds some responsibility to me for sure. But it's also adding responsibility to my teammates and the linebackers in general. We know that the coaches and our teammates expect a lot out of us this year. It's why we are always working.
Clearly, the loss of a guy like Mike Tauiliili - and his production - is something that has to be overcome. How will the linebackers cover that?
You never replace a guy like that. You just can't do it. What you do is have a bunch of guys step up and accept the challenge of doing things as well as they can as a group. Coach Collins is constantly talking about the five keys for success at this level, and we believe in what he's telling us. And we believe that we can pick up where Mike left off.
What are the five keys?
Stance, alignment, footwork, vision, and communication. We hear that every day. If you can do all those things really well, you will be a successful football player. We work on that every practice and we want to get better at it. Being able to succeed in those areas gets us more versatile and more dynamic as individuals and players.
Speaking of versatility, you've played in the middle and on the outside. I assume you are going to be back at middle linebacker this year, correct?
I'm going to play wherever the team needs me. We have a bunch of guys in this group who are athletic and who can play all over the place. Guys like Abraham Kromah and Damian Thornton can play everywhere. Adam Banks can play multiple positions. That's the kind of thing we need. It's what Coach Collins likes to instill in us. Every one of us needs to be able to play the SAM, WILL, and MIKE positions at the drop of a hat.
It seems like a lot to be able to learn and process all at once. Especially for the new players. How do the freshmen look?
They are doing OK. They are learning that this is a different level, and we try to keep them excited. They have been flying around and they have brought good energy and attitudes to the program.
On the topic of the program, you're now in a position to see things completed in terms of the turnaround efforts. Does that topic ever come up when the coaching staff is speaking to the upperclassmen?
Not really. Coach is talking about building a program and being successful. To do that you can't say something like 'we want to win a certain number of games' each year. You have to compete every time you step on the field and you have to try to win every time. If we can do that this year, then when we look back on the season I think we'll have been successful.
What do you need to do to be a leader on this team?
I need to bring everything I have every day. I need to be passionate for what we are doing on and off the field. Coach says all the time that we need guys willing to run to the ball every snap and looking to make a play on every chance.
As a middle linebacker I'm big into trying to stop the run. I have to be sort of a tough guy out there. I'm trying every day to be able to handle that and to set the tone for my teammates.
From other interviews, it sounds like this off season was particularly demanding. How was it different from others you've been a part of?
Well, going into it we knew it was going to be hard. We had done it before. Just when we thought we could get comfortable, things would change and we'd be pushed harder. We had to prepare for the workouts and the film study daily. Nothing gets you more prepared than doing the work.
Being on the defense and having a good view of your counterparts on offense, which players do you see having a big season for that side of the ball?
The offensive line has a couple players. Brian Moore and Jarrett Holt are both really playing well so far and I think they will be ready to help out a lot this season. Another guy who has been really good is Brandon Harper. He's so strong and he's really doing well on the line.
Between now and kickoff against Richmond, what needs to improve?
We all need to improve. It's why we go to practice each day. Defensively we need to understand the defense better than we already do, and we need to put ourselves in positions to be successful. If we can do that, and stick with the five keys Coach Collins has taught us, we'll be in position to make plays this year and that'll help us win games.
What's the biggest difference you've noticed in the last two seasons with regards to Duke Football?
We've all gotten better. When Coach speaks to us we all take it an apply it to our lives on and off the field. We're all working very hard all year round to get better on a play by play and then day by day basis.