Coach D breaks down the defense

Read on to see what defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio is saying about his defensive unit following the team's bye week.

On the improvement against Florida:
It was better execution. (Last year), it was on me, the players, the coaches. We looked last year where we fell short and how to get better. We had to play a lot of guys last year, probably too many. In the Florida game, we played 19 guys on defense. That's a good number. Those 19 can execute without a dropoff. Last year it was 25 or 28, and guys were susceptible to mistakes. Guys this year are able to play longer. Id like to play more but I won't play more until they execute at the level the 19 are executing at right now.

On the leadership now:
There is leadership, accountability. Guys are taking pride in what they're doing. Last year they were starters on a defense that didn't play well. I'm happy for the players because they put in a lot of effort. It's a good start. By no means are we finished or satisfied. We're 2-0, and will work hard to improve in certain areas.

On areas that still need fixed:
You want to be able to win but there were things they could have gotten us on. Anytime you can win and have a positive group and see what we're teaching, coupled with the fact that they know they have things to work on, that's a coach's ideal scenario during a bye week.

On Tracy Howard:
Tracy is a football guy. He loves it, studies it. You can have a conversation, he gets it on the first try. He understands why you're trying to do stuff, how to disguise coverages and things like that. He's been our most consistent corner since the preseason.

On James Coley:
I am so focused on the defense. James and I work together, try giving each other looks that we need to work on. It's a good relationship there. Im not focused on the players. Guys over there are working their tails off, and I know they're excited to get back out there.

On who the opponent is:
We played two games, and we're 2-0. We are supposed to improve and we did. What do you do next? Are you going to run to the ball the same way, create turnovers, tackle well? Those are things a good defense does. I talk to our guys about the process, and not the opponent. It's how you have to play every week.

On the depth new guys have provided:
We were missing that one layer of depth. Getting Gilbert, Renfrow, and Kamalu really created another layer of depth between 2nd team guys last year who weren't ready, and now they're 3rd team guys. We had guys play 300 snaps last year that haven't played much this year. I want guys executing at the standard of the top 19 guys.

On the added weight of guys:
All of them have done a great job. Chick at 275 has really helped. He was 238 as a freshman. Curtis has gone from 305 to 325. I cant pick out one. Curtis at 325 and Renfrow at 315 has really helped solidify the middle. Armbrister plays on the tight end a lot. He's 230, but was 218 last year. Hopefully he'll be 240 next year. That 12 pounds has helped him a lot. Denzel and Jimmy are making impact tackles. They're knocking guys back at 240 pounds a piece.

On Deon Bush:
Deon is as physical as anyone. As a freshman, he was on the bench sometimes because he was hurting because of leaving his feet on tackles. He made a decision in the spring to do it the right way, which will help him stay on the field for a long time. They don't hurt when they do it the right away. He practiced with us all last week, is making progress, and getting ready to go.

On Artie Burns:
He's got a lot of skills. He has speed and length at corner. He has a skill set to play safety, nickel back. His length and speed give you a good weapon at corner. He's competitive and he understands football. That's why he was so highly coveted by us. He's coming along, and continuing to improve.

On Artie's instincts:
He has a good feel for it. Some guys you have to coach it over and over and over again, and they have to be in the perfect spot to make a play. Other guys who are more instinctive, like Tracy and Artie, who can step in front and make a play, and know when to take those chances – more in zone than in man I hope. But that's the deal.

On missing more Juco guys:
We had a bunch of guys choose to go back to Junior College instead of playing here. That was crazy. Maybe things are different now. That's how hard things are. We had to create that extra layer of depth to be successful and we got it done.

On recruiting Gus Edwards:
I recruited Gus. We have a long time relationship with his coach. Al recruited that area when he was a young assistant. I recruited the area at Temple. We were able to get in there and evaluate him. Gus is now doing pretty well. He's deceptively big. He's probably 226, 227. He looks 215. He has a chance to be a really big back. The offensive staff will decide what to cap his weight at but he's a big back.


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