Interview: DT Matt Walters

Matt Walters breaks down the upcoming season for us and provides some insights as to who some players are to watch and what some of his goals are in 2002. He also talks about playing for coaches Davis, Coker and Shannon. Will we see Matt at a different position this year?

Talk about your spring preparation
We've gotten together as a defense and met with the defensive coaches to review 2001. They've evaluated us for our strengths and weaknesses and we're pretty much trying to focus on our strengths and eliminate the weaknesses.

For you personally what does this entail?
I'm working on the play action pass rush most of all. Not necessarily the recognition of it as much as closing the pocket. I think I react well to knowing it is a pass and not a run but I need to get better at closing the pocket and I'm working a lot on that.

Differences in team attitude coming off the title vs. last year?
I'm very surprised but we are actually working harder than last year and I didn't think that was possible last year. Coming off of the Sugar Bowl and not having the chance to play in the championship game was an incentive and made us mad and hungry for 2001 but this year I'm seeing guys work even harder. We have a chance to repeat and maintain what we have and that is driving people even harder than last year. I think all of the talent we had on the scout team last year is helping with this too. We have guys like Roger McIntosh and Leon Williams that are really impressive this spring. Last year they were on the scout team and had to mimic defenses of teams we were playing and didn't really get to learn our defense as much. This year they are able to learn it and play more freely on defense and they look incredible so far this spring.

What has been your personal approach this spring?
I don't come into spring thinking my spot is secure. I come in thinking I have to earn it again. We have so many talented young guys there too that I know I have to work even harder to maintain my spot. Vince (Wilfork) is awesome and Orien (Harris), Santonio (Thomas), Miguel (Robede), William (Joseph) are all impressive and look great. I'm just trying to work harder and make sure I get myself ready to play.

How has the progress been there?
I feel better than ever. Last year I think I over-trained and I hurt my pec muscle a bit. I was always doing an extra rep or going home and doing a little more. I spoke with coach Swasey and he set me straight. He told me to do exactly what he gave me and nothing more as I was not giving my body enough time to recover. I have added almost 15 pounds of muscle and am now at 280. The other day I measured at 6-4 ¾ and 280. I have not run a 40 in a while but the last time I did it was 4.53 so I'd like to keep the weight I have and come close to that time this summer.

Thoughts on the 2002 season?
We love to have a tough schedule like this. Our goal is to have the #1 defense in the nation and go out every week and shut people down. We are really looking forward to this schedule. The defensive linemen approach the game as if it is won or lost with us. I really believe that we control the defense up front and it is on us to get the job done. I know we have a lot of talent at linebacker and in the secondary but we feel if we do what we need to up front we're going to win. If we can attain our goal of being the #1 defense in the country I think we have a great shot at repeating as national champs this year with such a tough schedule.

How are things different playing for coach Coker vs. Butch Davis?
I felt bad when coach Davis left. I felt he deserved a part of the national title as he laid a lot of the groundwork for it. He and coach Coker were both so important in that outcome.

What is it like playing for coach Coker?
I keep telling myself he is too good to be true. Every time I think it's got to end he comes up with something better and helps us out or something. I am very comfortable playing for him and he has been great from the beginning. The best thing about coach Coker is that when we win he gives his players all the credit and, if we don't do things as planned, he takes the blame.

Thoughts on playing for Randy Shannon?
Coach Shannon did a great job for us last year and he won the assistant of the year and everything but I think he'll be even better this year. Last year he was overly cautious almost trying to get a feel for the players. He was coaching college but then went to the NFL before coming back and I think he spent a good deal of last year getting adjusted to us. I think this year he'll have more of a definitive game plan as far as approaching practice and dealing with players. I already see some changes with him and he is really getting a great feel for the defense now.

Why Miami out of high school?
It was pretty much a combination of the coaches and players at that time and the general direction of the program. Coach Soldinger recruited me and I really got along well with him and I always like coach Mark so they both played a big part in my signing here. It was also close to home and that played a part in it as well.

Looking back what do you think?
It has been everything I expected and so much more. The players and coaches have so much fun here. I never imagined it could be this much fun playing football. We have such a great time on and off the field. We all get along very well and it is just a lot of fun out there.

What are you studying?
I'm one class away from getting my undergrad in Mechanical Engineering but I'm not going to walk (graduation ceremony) until next year when I'll have my full masters in M.E.

What are some of your interests outside of football?
Pretty much fishing and golf. I love to fish and I played varsity golf all four years of high school. I was a scratch golfer in high school but am probably a 5-10 handicap now. I don't get to play that much outside of the summer now due to my football schedule.

Any chance of seeing you at defensive end this year?
I got to do that some last year and really loved it. I came here out of high school as a defensive end and we were thin at defensive tackle and they asked me if I'd help out and play tackle. I've done that obviously and have loved playing tackle. I hope to be able to play some defensive end this year, we'll see if that is in the scheme. I like it out there because you get to use your athletic ability and there is more freedom out there than at tackle. I really enjoyed playing defensive end when I got to do it. I've been undersized a bit at tackle but have tried to make up for that with hustle.

What has been your highlight thus far on the field?
The Rose Bowl was certainly one, that was unbelievable. I also would have to say the 2000 FSU game. That was an incredible experience. Those two certainly stick out thus far.

Who are some players to watch in 2002 for us?
Again I'd have to say Roger McIntosh and Leon Williams. These guys are awesome and they are going to be something special. I'd say there are others that were on the scout team last year as well that could step in and be big time players this year as well. We have a lot of talent on this team and the competition is just making everyone better.

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