"I can't hardly go into it without talking about Zo (Alonzo Jackson) a little bit. The one we are losing is the guy who led us in sacks the last couple of years. He had a great career. Played in the Hula Bowl, went to the (NFL) combine and did well. We are excited. We are hoping he's a high draft pick and he makes his money. But it's going to be hard to replace him. The guy who played behind him, Eric Powell, kind of had a rough deal but he played very well his senior year. Those two guys realistically, out of our top 22 on defense, we lose three guys and two of them were defensive ends. We have to figure out a way to replace them. That's the bad news. The good news is there's some good, young talent there I feel like.
Kevin (Emanuel) is a senior, started at left end last year and will probably start at left end this year. He's the starter coming back. Eric Moore,who backed him up, is probably going to move to the right side. Start it that way, just to get the guys with the most experience in the top two spots. I think Eric will do well on that side. Right behind them, Charles Howard is going to fit him pretty quickly because he's going to be a junior as well. Even though he redshirted last year, he played good bit as a freshman and a sophomore, so he's got experience, too.
"After that, you have three young guys and Willie Jones and Kamerion Wimbley those two were freshman last year and played a little bit and will battle for playing time. And then Darrell Burston -- he was redshirted last year - he will also be in the mix and in the battle for playing time. Chauncey Davis is here this spring, a junior-college guy that will be out there for the first time this spring. It's good to get him out there this spring as opposed to waiting to the fall. This will give him a chance to really get a feel and a base. We feel good about that. We have a couple of freshman coming in. Alex Boston will redshirt because of the injury (knee) and I think over time he's going to be a good player. And then D.J. Norris is a tough, hard-nosed kid. He's a big guy but a quick big guy. I don't know what his 40-yard time will be but I know the first five yards he's pretty good."
Did you get a good feel about how your kids performed during mat drills?
The negative part was Willie didn't get a chance to go through a majority of the drills because of his knee. And Eric Moore, the first time we went out there he stepped on a cone and the cone slipped out from underneath him and his legs split and he ended up pulling a groin real bad. He missed the whole mats. He did the bike and hopefully enough stuff to keep him in cardiovascular shape but as far as getting any benefits out of the mat drills, he didn't and that was devastating because, quite frankly, he has a chance to develop into something special. That (injury) deprived him the chance to get better during that period. That was bad news. The good news was Kamerion Wimbley and Darrell Burston each had pretty good mat drills. Charles Howard coming off the knee (injury), he made it through the whole mat drills and got better as they went. And actually really surprised me how well Charles did. Chauncey Davis came in and like a lot of them do when they first come in, he struggled. But he struggled less and less as they went and I think it did a lot for him. It opened his eyes, give him an idea what it's going to be like and at the same time help his quickness and endurance. I felt pretty good. Kevin Emanuel was another one who did good. When you have been around here a certain amount of time, they give you a break that last one. We ask them (seniors) do a lot of leading and stuff like that. Whatever he did, he was pretty good at."
Heading into last year, your goal was to increase pressure as well as your sack total.
"Sacks are not as big a deal to me as pressure. If you have pressure, the sacks will come. If you have pressure and even though you don't have sacks. ... to me the best play in football is when you go back and you hit that quarterback and the ball spills out and somebody scoops it up and scores a touchdown. Well, you don't get a sack for that. It doesn't even count as a sack. That sack statistic can be somewhat misleading but I did think the pressure was somewhat better. And it should have been because those guys were older and they should have gotten better as they got older. Now this will be a real telling year here because we are losing Zo and Eric Powell and some of the young talent we have has to mature pretty quickly. What we need to do is improve from last year to this year. If we can do that after losing Zo, we will feel pretty good if we can get that done."
Any changes scheme wise?
"We always tweak a little here and there. Always have just because offenses to their tweaking and we have to do it to change up with them. Your personnel changes a little bit but it's not going to be anything major. We are still going to be hopefully aggressive going to the ball, committed to stopping the run and then we get a team in a passing deal, pin our ears back and go get him. It's the same way we've done it and we aren't going to change that."
Weight-wise, are your players at the weight you want to see?
"Yeah. Charles had gotten a little heavy due to the inactivity. But he has lost some but he probably needs to lose a little more but now that he's moving and his knee is well, he's about where we expect him to be. Kamerion and Darrell are both young guys who need to put some weight on. They have put some weight on. We want to do it slowly and correctly and they are right on course. They are not as heavy as they need to be but they are gaining at the rate they need to be gaining. Willie is the same way. Kind of right on course where he needs to be. I don't think those three young guys are as good as they are going to get by any means, but they are coming. I don't know much about Chauncey but he looks pretty good. Eric is right there. When he lost his appendix down in Miami, he came back and couldn't eat. He went down to almost 225 pounds. Now his weight is back up to 250 and he's holding it up pretty good and is looking like the Eric Moore before he got hurt, but with a little more experience. He's going to be a good player."