Q&A with Coach D'Onofrio

Read on to see what defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio is saying about the younger players getting more looks, the development of Chad Thomas, preparing to coach against Steve Spurrier, and much more.

On getting a look at some younger players:
We saw Demetrius Jackson do some things,, Terry McCray, Gayot, we just have to keep making progress with those guys and have specific drills for them. They still have a chance to get better and I’m enjoying watching them compete.

On the depth they provide:
Juwon played special teams but we haven’t seen guys like McCray, Demetrius, Mike Smith, guys like that. This is the first year where we could pull guys from the other field that could help us.

On playing the younger guys more in the bowl game:
At the end of the day the common ground is everyone wants to win. Obviously the seniors have been here four years and they deserved the time off but they have to go out and play their best game. You just have to have a plan for it and we are all focused on winning the game.

On coaching against Steve Spurrier:
It’s great to play a coach of that caliber. You get excited for those types of games. It’s exciting for all of us. It’s why we do what we do.

On South Carolina’s offense:
They do a really nice job of establishing the run with their backs. Their guys are thick, 220 pound guys who run downhill. Their line is very aggressive. Coach Spurrier has a very detailed passing game. That will be a great deal of difficulty to defend. They give you a lot of different looks.

On Chad Thomas coming from such a winning program in HS:
I think he’s handled it how we all have and that’s wishing we won more games. We’re all in this. There is nothing you can do about the past. You just have to move forward and that’s our jobs – to have the young guys channel it in the right direction. All the young guys want to help and win. You win by being able to execute. We all need to execute better. Everyone wants to win but what are you willing to do to win?

On Thomas’ play count average this season:
I will say he was in the 30s. He started on third down but then he started getting reps on first and second down. I’m thinking he was around 30 (per game).

On Thomas not getting any sacks:
I think he was close. The biggest thing is he’s a very smart football player. Generally we don’t ask first year guys to play that much. We are trying to get our best guys on the field on third down. He played inside some in high school. That allowed us to have Tyriq on the outside and Chad inside sometimes to get your best guys on the field.

On the improvements the defense made this season:
We had much better accountability and better execution. We need more guys doing their job. We need to eliminate explosive plays, better tackling. In order to take the next step we need to play better on third down and sack the quarterback more.



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