"He just told me not to put any undue pressure on myself," Rolle said. "He said if I just relaxed and played my game, the big plays would come."
Come they did. Rolle's 64-yard interception return for a touchdown spearheaded a 23-12 win for the defense in the annual intrasquad game.
The highly-touted freshman also forced a fumble, broke up three passes and was credited for three tackles. A potential second interception trickled through his fingertips after he stepped in front of a Drew Weatherford pass in the end zone.
Not bad for a guy who is supposed be graduating from high school next month – Rolle enrolled early in order to participate in spring practice.
"I feel like my game has improved tremendously on the mental side of things this spring," Rolle said. "I've had a lot of people tell me that I have the physical potential to play at this level but it's about getting mentally where you need to be. I'm excited about my progression."
The 10,000 or so fans that dotted Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday likely left buzzing about the progression of the entire defense. Fueled largely by five sacks and eight tackles for loss, the unit held their counterparts to a net of minus-1 rushing yards.
Following a see-saw spring in which both units split dominance in increased scrimmage situations, things came together for the defense on Saturday. Blustery conditions and intermittent rain showers help the cause.
"We put it all together today, especially stopping the ground game," said linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who earned the honor of defensive MVP for his efforts in camp. "Today was real encouraging for us because we are going to have to stop teams like Clemson and Virginia Tech who made a living pounding the ball."
As a precaution, starting tailback Lorenzo Booker didn't take part in the action. In his absence, Russell Ball led all rushers with 27 yards on six carries. Second-teamer Antone Smith – the offensive MVP of the spring – netted just one yard on 11 carries.
"It was almost like they had the script," Smith said. "Everywhere I tried to run it seemed like four or five guys were waiting on me."
Reserve quarterback Thomas Keane connected with Robert Hallback for the only offensive touchdown of the contest. Hallback corralled the loose ball after it glanced around between he and cornerback Korey Mangum half a dozen times.
The modified scoring system awarded additional points to each side via first downs, sacks, turnovers and fourth down stops in the scripted workout.
Starting quarterback Drew Weatherford played only 50 percent of the snaps, completing 9-of-12 attempts for 75 yards. Weatherford found Greg Carr for a 22-yard gain but also tossed his first interception of the spring into the arms of safety Roger Williams.
"Those guys came to play today," Weatherford said of the defense. "But overall I think (the offense) accomplished what we set out to do this spring."
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