"The best thing about me is you've got a clean slate."
For a room full of Iowa State defensive backs eager to prove themselves to a new secondary coach in Maurice Linguist — who admitted who researched the depth chart before taking the job in Ames and liked he could work in new blood — this statement, Linguist's first, was probably met with enthusiasm.
For Nigel Tribune, the lone incumbent starter, it could have been a drag. After proving himself worthy to Troy Douglas, now at Pitt, Tribune had to get back on the horse and re-win his spot at cornerback.
Tribune, however, didn't see it that way.
"You always have to come out there and compete, regardless of who the coach is," the sophomore-to-be said Monday. "I'm just a competitor, so it's nothing new."
It didn't take long for Linguist to see in Tribune what his predecessor noticed almost immediately. Tribune's length. His speed. His ball skills. That little something you can't quite coach.
"He's got the natural, innate ability, and I think he's only trying to get better," Linguist, a Baylor grad who most recently coached at Buffalo, said. "It's been on film. He's been doing it."
Having taken his lumps last season, every Saturday, by just about every Big 12 receiver, Tribune is comfortable. The game has slowed down.
He'll still be his typical self, willing to sacrifice a six-yard hitch if it means a tipped pass here, perhaps an interception there, and he's banking on his familiarity with the conference's schemes and players to increase his success rate.
"Yeah, took some gambles," Tribune said with a laugh.
"I'll be more adjusted than last year," Tribune said. "[In the offseason] I wanted to get a little better, learn from my mistakes last year, just being more aggressive."
In trying to rebuild a defense that was No. 9 in the Big 12 in turnovers forced and lost Rodney Coe, Charlie Rogers and JUCO transfer Devron Moore this offseason, the Cyclones are correct in singling out Tribune as their rising star.
And Linguist isn't shy about Tribune's potential.
"Nigel's done an absolutely great job," Linguist said. "He's trying to develop a mindset and a culture of being a lockdown-type guy."
In regards to Mutcherson, a junior, Linguist said: "He explodes to the ball."
"Still got to watch more film, pay attention to detail more and work on some of my weaknesses," he said. "Sometimes just reading the hot reads or double moves. I struggle with double moves from time to time. And just being patient at the line of scrimmage."