On the defense replacing some key veterans: We’re ready. Some people don’t think we have a lot of experience, but I think we do. Maurice Falls, Montese Overton, Terry Williams, Chrishon Rose and I are all back and hungry. We want to have a better season this year than we did last year.
On taking over Jeremy Grove’s leadership role this season: I’ve been ready to embrace this role and I knew I had to at a certain time. Jeremy told me I had to embrace his role for him when he got injured and I’m learning. I look up to him and Kyle Tudor, those boys set me up right when I was younger and taught me a lot of things. It’s our time to run tables and it’s great to have Grove back helping coach us.
On playing Virginia Tech, South Carolina and Carolina back-to-back-to-back: We’re never nervous we’re excited and ready to play. If we were nervous we wouldn’t have put them on the schedule. We know they are good teams, but we’re a good team also. Both of us are working hard and will be ready to battle no matter where we play. Every game is a big game.Senior nose tackle Terry Williams
On the defensive line’s preparation for this season: Our unit has been working hard this summer and especially in (Strength and Conditioning) coach Connors’ camp. He has gotten us better and in better shape. Our leaders in each position group have been putting in extra work with the younger guys after his workouts as well. We have all bought into the system and we’re ready to go this season.
On having a chance to return after sitting out 8 games last season due to disciplinary action: I’m just blessed to have this opportunity; a lot of people don’t get this type of chance. I’m very lucky, I’m not going to take it for granted and I’m staying out of trouble. I want to be a leader on the team this year.
Senior inside Linebacker Brandon Williams
On being back at it for fall camp: It feels good to be back out here especially since we’ve been grinding all summer. We’re conditioned, we’ve been lifting weights and now it’s time to play ball. Everyone is working hard for that overall goal of an (American Athletic) Conference Championship.
On the difference between last year’s defense and now: We have a lot more speed on the field this year. Stopping the run will be our number one goal again. We just have to make sure we get into the right spots so we can make the right play at the right time.
On the AAC move and games being broadcast on ESPN this year: The way I see it we have bigger opportunities to be successful in this league. As long as we do what we have to do we can get where we want to be.
On being in the starting spot heading into the season: I’m looking forward to starting. I started a couple games last year so I know what it feels like. I’m ready for the opportunity.
Junior cornerback Joshua Hawkins
On how the secondary will look this season: We have Dominique Lennon and Terrell Richardson back there where Damon Magazu was, me at field corner, Detric Allen at boundary corner and more guys like Dashawn Benton and DaShaun Amos ready to play. I think we look like a great defense right now. We’re more physical and faster than last year. If someone goes down we have another guy standing next to coach ready to jump in.
On embracing a leadership role: Damon Magazu left, Chip Thompson left and Adonis Armstrong left, those were three big leaders. I definitely have to step up and be that vocal leader because I’m usually not a vocal guy. I usually let my play do the talking, but other players may not react to that as much so I should be more vocal. I want to make sure my teammates know that no matter what people say about the secondary we’ll be good as a team.Senior outside linebacker Maurice Falls
On the linebacking corps’ bond: It’s a lot of fun out there with these guys and we look good. We’re faster and stronger this year and to top it off we always have fun. When you play a sport like this you have to have fun. If you don’t enjoy yourself with the guys you have around you it’s hard to play the game. It’s more of a brotherhood than anything.
On being the only linebacker named to a 2014 Watch List (Butkus): It’s nice to be recognized for the award, but I want to help my team. I’m not too much of a vocal leader; I let my pads do the talking. Still anybody on the team knows they can come up and talk to me at any time.Junior outside linebacker Montese Overton
On potential AAC jitters: Winning that bowl game last season was a weight off our shoulders and we know we’re a good team. Coming into the new conference and building off of what we did last year I don’t think we will have any jitters or confusion. When we step on the field we will be one big team. Believe it or not, I think we look better right now than we did last year.N.C. State transfer and junior defensive lineman K’Hadree Hooker
On sitting out last season and having an opportunity to make an impact now: Last year at this time I was getting adjusted to everything. With a year under my belt I’m ready to go and excited to play. I’m better with mental toughness this year and know the schemes more. My position coach (Marc Yellock) is doing a great job with me.Red-shirt freshman defensive end Randall Anderson
On what the red-shirt year did for him: For starters, I’ve put on about twenty pounds of muscle. I worked a lot on my footwork with (now Chicago Bears defensive lineman) Lee Pegues this summer. We did a lot of one-on-ones together along with some offensive linemen. I’ve also been working on hand placement drills. From a mental standpoint I’m more mature than last year and more focused. The game has slowed down for me a lot.