(LARRY JOHNSON) How do you feel as you compare this to this time last year? What do you think the differences are? "We're a lot further ahead than we were last year. We had some of the seniors still figuring out the defensive stuff. On the defensive side ball they were still learning stuff [new coaching staff last fall]; so as far as the starter go, I mean, we've pretty much got it down. We still have dark spots that we've got to remember, but it's nothing that we haven't done before. I feel that we're further along than we were last year."
On replacing NFL draft pick David Vobora: "Well, that's some big shoes to fill but I'll do my best. I'm not trying to be David or anything like that. I'm just trying to step in, be that leadership for our guys, for the younger guys and stuff. I'm not trying to replace anybody or anything like that."
(LJ) Did you have a good summer? "Yeah, I thought I had a great summer, although I missed the first week of training. I came back, I got stronger - a little bit bigger. I mean, I felt everybody actually had a great summer."
About the first day of practice this week: "It started off kinda slow, you know? New guys getting into the pace and stuff, but overall the practice went pretty good. We got new Nike cleats that people have got to break in - feet are a little sore and stuff. I feel that held us back a little bit, but I think we'll be fine."
What really stood out today: "Well, the athleticism of the younger guys. I mean, they came in and filled in pretty well. I thought they picked it up pretty good. I mean, that's always helpful. That's always good to see..."
About him refering to the freshmen as "younger guys", when he's still a young guy: "True. Yes. Well, I mean within our linebackers we've got nothing but young linebackers. I've got a little bit of playing time; so I feel I'm allowed [laughter]."
NATHAN ENDERLE, 6-5, 223, RS-So
(LARRY JOHNSON) How would you compare this to this time last year? "It's gotta be better, because we know the offense more. We have more people that have been here for longer. We do have some new guys that are learning the stuff, but we have a lot more veterans that know the offense rather than it's "they've only been in for six months."
(LJ) Coach Akey said a moment ago that the sophomores are seasoned veteran to him. Do you feel like a seasoned veteran?
"I do, actually. We've been through a lot. I've been through a lot since I've been here – three coaches, four offenses and all kinds of stuff. It does make you grow up fast. College football does make you grow fast for all those guys that have to play when they're young."
About nerves of first practice: "I was just excited. I mean, I think some of the freshmen were a little nervous just because they don't know what to expect, but we have some genuine excitement out here from most of the guys ready to come out and play."
(LJ) What do you think of the new facilities as far as the training room and the meeting rooms being built this year? "I haven't seen ‘em yet. I'm hoping they're great, because when I came in our weight room and our locker room were top of the line from all the places I went to. We had some good places; so if that's the kind of stuff we're getting, I'll be really excited."
About comparing his leadership role this year to last - is it more comfortable: "Yeah. I mean, last year I was battling with somebody, and then they ended up leaving [at the end of spring]; so it was a little different. This year I've still go a lot of guys to compete with. All of our quarterbacks are really talented, and I'm glad to see that, because it will push every single one of us every day; so I'm excited for that."
Thoughts about the new Nike gear: "It's awesome. I mean, you want Nike, really, as a football team. They've been around forever. Adidas was good, but when coach gave us the news, we were genuinely excited about that."
Anything stand out about the first practice: "We have a lot of good athletes who came in. A lot of new guys really impressed me with their athleticism, and they've got to learn the stuff; so it might not shine through as quick as you want. But I mean we have some good guys coming in, and a lot of veterans that improved a lot over the summer."
About the importance of staying on campus for summer workouts: "It was pretty good. I mean, it's great to be around the team and be up here. You get a better workout when you stay here in the summer than when you go home, no matter how hard you think you're going to work out. When you're around all the other guys you can see how much better they're getting. It pushes you."