2 MINUTE DRILL: DC Mark Criner

WITH THE SILVER & GOLD SPRING GAME JUST OVER A WEEK AWAY, GoVandals.net caught up with defensive coordinator MARK CRINER to get his take on how the 2011 Idaho D has performed so far in camp. The Vandals are looking at more depth across the board, and five years of continuity are paying dividends as Idaho goes 2-deep with game experience at almost every position and seven returning starters.

How is the defensive backfield for 2011 different than what Idaho has fielded in the past, and what do you think you can do differently from what Idaho has done in the past.

Senior CB Matt Harvey battling for starting job.
"One thing I'd say is we're more athletic - there's more speed in the secondary. I think we're also a little more physical. The majority of the kids are in that 180-190 pounds range, which gives us a bit more stamina and makes us bigger, and more physical as well. That says a lot. Where we are from when we first took over [in 2007], we're light years away just from the standpoint of all our bodies. If you do the overall numbers, from the standpoint of their ability, we're much faster and we're more physical. And they've also been in the system for two years or more, which is tremendous for us."

"What are some of your general thoughts about how spring camp has gone so far for the Idaho cornerbacks."

"The competition level has really been good. Cornerwise, I think competition is building a lot of play, from the standpoint that they are fighting their tails off to keep their job. The same thing with the safety positions. Not only are they fighting with regard to technique, I think you'll find that we're better at the line of scrimmage. We're playing much faster at the cornerback position with better technique."

What are your thoughts about how the overall defense is developing, and how that will affect all facets of the game for Idaho in 2011.

"We've got more experience overall, we've got more size on the defensive front, and we're more physical at the linebacker position. And with all those things put together, we've got a chance now to have enough bodies, and play a lot of bodies. Whenever you deal with numbers, you deal with special teams. Now a lot of our starters don't have to go on all four special team's units, which wears your team down even more. You've got to remember special teams is a third of the ball game, and you've got some players that are 2s and 3s, or redshirt freshmen, or your walkons that are earning the opportunity for some playing time down the road. There's more athletic young kids, and more athletic kids that we're bringing into this program that are walking on, that are really helping this football team out tremendously by being able to play in special teams roles."

With all of the experience right now, what are some of the things you're focusing on this spring?

"You can't forget about just basic, overall, fundamental football. And the thing about it is that these kids have grown up in the same system now, learning the fundamental part of the football game. I'm talking about striking people, shedding people, tackling people. Whenever you add better athletes to that system, we're only going to get better because the kids are growing up in that system. The technique part, which we're spending a lot of time on this spring, is making sure that we're sound, and we're playing fast. It all comes down to striking people with good pad level, shedding blocks and getting to the ball carrier, and understanding the correct angles to run to get into good position to make good tackles. That's where we're so much better than what we've been in the past, and that's been the fun part about it this spring."

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