JS - Coach, last year we were told we would be an attacking defense, but when it played out on the field, we often looked tentative and rocked back on our heels. What is your assessment on this observation?
AW - Last year was a learning process. As the season progressed the players gained confidence in the new system and it showed in the more aggressive style we were able to instill during the second half of the season. Key injuries in the secondary (Rocky and Gonzo) along with Cody Pree in the DL early in the season slowed our development until the second half.
JS - Do we have a large assortment of blitzes and disguises to confuse the opposing QBs in our rush packages?
AW - Speed over size so we should be primed to bring the house when we dictate it is time—we want to dictate when that time is!
JS - Give us an idea of what to expect from this rover back position called Bandit, and who will be playing this position?
AW - Our Drop Outside Linebacker position should be Rocky Schwartz or Joseph Gonzales since Stephen James is lost for the season due to off the field knee injury.
JS - How good of a player do you expect Ash to be this fall?
AW - The only person who can limit the type of season Ell Ash can have is Ell. He has worked extremely hard during the off-season. If he listens and learns from Coach Fitzpatrick, he will be a force to reckon with.
JS - How is Brian West coming along? Is he more of an inside or outside DL?
AW - Brian continues to develop as a defensive lineman and can play either inside or outside.
JS - What is your confidence level of our corners and their backups in single coverages?
AW - I have a lot of confidence in our corners and the fact that we will find/play corners who will allow us to bring pressure. You can't play pressure defense without single coverage so our secondary must learn to and perform single coverage when called.
JS - How does our team defense speed stack up compared to other schools in our conference and BCS teams?
AW - What we can do is run… I think we are the fastest defense in the conference and can compare favorably with the majority of so called BCS teams.
JS - How are some of our young linemen progressing in the program, such as; Raymond Alake, Demarcus Lattier, Michael Ray and any other noteworthy newcomers?
AW - Especially in the defensive line, there is a learning progress that cannot be pushed. These players have talent but are very young. As freshmen in HS they did not star for their HS team so no way should we expect for them to star in D-1 football at such a young age. Given time and good coaching they will be the stars of the future. We are blessed with the fact that our two deep are juniors who will be around two more years giving our stars of the future time to mature at the right pace.
JS - What happened last year in the second half of the Louisiana Lafayette game? How do we prevent that type of meltdown in the future?
AW - That is one of those games that most teams have to face (Texas vs Kansas last year, USC vs Oregon St.,). Football is a game of momentum and making plays. After jumping out to a good lead early, major mistakes in the kicking game got them back into the game, then BIG MO took charge and we were not able to get it back. How do you prevent that? Well, play 60 minutes, have a killer instinct when you get the lead, and MAKE THE PLAY DEFENSIVELY WHEN YOU NEED TO. This year's team should learn from last year's game just as last year's team had confidence to come from behind due to the Rice game and five other games where we were down but came back.
JS - What can we do to improve our 3rd down performance efficiency on defense?
AW - That was the most disappointing part of our defense last year. MAKE THE PLAY ON THIRD DOWN. #1 we will be better prepared to pressure on third down and the players must have the mind set that they can and will make the play to get us off the field: YES WE CAN; YES WE WILL!
JS - What games in conference this season would you point to as key games critical to a successful season?
AW - All of them! Tulane starts us off either in first or last place. East Carolina, Marshall, and UAB are new opponents. SMU is vastly improved, Rice will play us hard for 60 minutes, UTEP, on the road, is open the week before we play them, and we play Tulsa on the road with a short week. There are no easy non-critical games in C-USA.
JS - There is a lot of talk among the fans and a lot of expectations of a strong defense this coming season. Should we dare mention the words mad dog? Then the unthinkable, print a T-shirt that declares the "dogs" are back?????
AW - 2007: YEAR OF THE MAD DOGS!
One hunger, One purpose, One focus, One Goal, One Team!
Thanks for taking the time to talk with CoogFans.com today. Good Luck this coming season.