CN: First of all, talk about what spring ball's been like so far this year, and what it's been like playing for Coach Chizik and Coach Bolt.
BRAAKSMA: Oh, it's . . . we're loving it right now. The coaches are keeping us flying around and it's a whole new system, but he's having us work hard, and getting better right now, so it's going good.
CN: What are your expectations going into the final week of spring ball? What is it you'd like to accomplish this last week?
BRAAKSMA: Just keep improving where I need to improve at. Coach Pelton, the D-line coach, is working us hard and he's getting us better and just improving on the techniques and getting up-field and making plays.
CN: Now, what are some of the things that really stand out in your mind, both in terms of the conditioning program of Coach Sheppard and the focus of Coach Bolt and Coach Pelton this year?
BRAAKSMA: Conditioning with Coach Shep, he's blowing us up, he's making us work hard and getting us stronger and faster. And Coach Bolt, he's keeping us working hard, and you know, he's keeping us focused, and Coach Chiz, he's focusing the little stuff this year and just making us . . . trying to work on the little stuff and get better, every step, every day, so . . . keep working in the right direction.
CN: Now, how's the D-line coming along, in your estimation?
BRAAKSMA: Uh, we're working hard; we're doing good. We could improve, you know, here and there in certain spots, but right now we're looking pretty strong, I think . . . just keep getting better every day.
CN: How are you guys looking against the offensive line, or better yet, how is the offensive line looking? I mean, that's one of the big questions that people have had. You're getting a chance to go against them; as a defensive lineman how are they looking?
BRAAKSMA: They're looking good. They're flying around too, they're working hard; Coach Mac's getting on them, you know, coming off the ball, getting fit, being physical. They're working hard too, and they're making us work, every day, so . . . let's keep it that way. So, they're working hard.
CN: Now, one of the areas that Coach Chizik really has stressed is the D-line. He said it begins there, we need two-deep, we need this unit to sort of carry us. How have you all responded to that challenge?
BRAAKSMA: We just keep trying to work hard and get better, it's really all you can do is just . . . effort and listen to your coaches, and just keep bringing it in, day-in-day-out, and every day keep coming back, bring your lunch-pail and go to work.
CN: Now in terms of that, and Coach Pelton talked about that, in terms of bringing your sack, your baloney sandwich, that type of thing. I had a chance to interview him the other day. In terms of the size, the speed, the explosiveness; those have been priorities of Coach Sheppard. Are you feeling stronger, are you feeling faster, more explosive? Talk about how you're feeling after having gone through his conditioning program.
BRAAKSMA: Oh, yeah, the winter conditioning was . . . it was rough, it was real hard and I feel like I'm a lot . . .
CN: Harder than in the past?
BRAAKSMA: Um, I mean, it was hard in the past, too, but this year it seemed like it was maybe even a little harder, but . . . I feel like I'm in the best condition of my life right now, and feel like I'm getting stronger, too . . . just keep working there, I've got a long way to go, you know, we've got all summer to keep working hard and get that conditioning up better, and even stronger too, so Coach Shep's doing good.
CN: So what are the things you're going to work on, personally, following spring ball?
BRAAKSMA: Oh, just strength and speed and conditioning and maybe work on footwork and work on my hands, being on D-line, you've gotta have good hands, good hips, good feet. Just try to work on all that in the summer.
CN: Now, technique has been something that's been stressed. Talk about some of the little things you-all have done to improve your techniques.
BRAAKSMA: Coach Pelton's got all kinds of drills. He's an old D-lineman, he knows a lot of technique stuff and he's having us work on, you know, like I said, feet and he's got drills for that. He's got drills for working our hips and doing a lot of hand stuff too with us, through firing our hands, shooting hat and helmet, getting our hands inside. He's working us about every way you can, getting us better.
CN: Last couple of questions . . . Coach Pelton said that he really needs you guys to stop the run, you know, when you give up the run it takes your manhood. Talk about his philosophy, defensive philosophy and what that means to you.
BRAAKSMA: Coach Pelton just wants us to fly around and . . . have fun on the field, but at the same time know your responsibilities, and just like I said, just effort, he doesn't want to see you loafing, he hates that the most. He figures as long as you've got effort everything else will come after that, technique, everything else will just follow up after that. As long as you have effort you've got a chance to play.
CN: Last question, as a defensive unit, how are you all coming along? And specifically, the coaches talked about the importance of speed. Having seen these guys two, three years, what do they look like in terms of their strength? What do they look like in terms of their speed? Has the team gotten faster? Just, you know, talk about the defense in general.
BRAAKSMA: I'll admit, defense is . . . we're looking good, I think. We've got a long ways to go; we've got to keep making improvements. I mean, we've got a couple of linebackers coming back and they look like they're doing good and the same with other positions too, you know, it's a team effort, everybody's got their responsibilities and right now everybody's really got to step it up to . . . everybody has to improve before next year, but I think for right now, we're doing pretty good.