1-on-1 with DL coach John Palermo

We talked with first-year defensive line coach John Palermo to discuss a number of topics with his players.

How would you assess the play of the defensive line this season heading into the Houston game?

"I would say right now that we are obviously not where we want to be. I think the last two weeks, with the off week, we have made progress and we will find out Saturday against a pretty good offense in Houston. We are starting to come together; we are making some changes and moves. We are trying to get the best four guys on the field Saturday and hopefully we can improve and get better."

Who has been the most consistent lineman for you this year?

"I will be very honest with you. I don't know that we have a consistent guy. I think Eric Moncur at defensive end has probably been the most consistent and inside at tackle, it has for sure been Bryan Pata. Those guys have been consistent as far as every down, with effort and technique and doing the things we need to do to win."

What would you attribute the lack of sacks to?

"I know what the reasons for the lack of sacks are, but I don't want to talk about it because it looks like excuses. We need to get better and we need to improve. We need to put more pressure on the quarterback. We need to get more pressure. I'll tell you what with all that we do with our defensive backs, I don't want to leave those poor kids out to dry. We need to put more pressure on the quarterback and get hands in his face."

Are you pleased with the run defense?

"I think the run defense has been very good. Sometimes, that is a double edged sword. Sometimes when you are good against the run, you don't get as good a pass rush because my philosophy as far as stopping the run is to stop draws, stop screens, and stop quarterback scrambles. But, at the same time, I think we have put enough guys in the rush that we should and we will get more pressure."

Have the practices been more intense these past two weeks?

"I think the practices have been a little more intense. I think coaches have a tendency sometimes when things aren't going well to go back and do it like you did the old way. I have only been here a short period of time and I have tried to be patient and tried to do it a certain way, well now we are going to do it my way. We will find out Saturday which is better."

How is Pata doing at defensive tackle?

"I think Bryan Pata has been a very pleasant surprise. He is a guy who had every excuse in the world to not play well this season, moving from outside to inside is a tough transition. But, I think it has helped him and helped us as a football team."

Before the season, everyone expected big seasons from Baraka and Kareem, what are teams doing to limit them?

"Expectations are like anything else. Until you see them doing it on the field, that is what counts. In past history, there is a reason why certain guys weren't starters for many games. They need to pick their game up as well as the rest of the team. I don't want to say it is an effort thing, we just have to pick up our game and play hard for four quarters."

How can Teraz McCray help the line as a starter?

"Teraz is a good physical player with a compact body inside. But, we as a defensive front have to pick up the tempo particularly in the second half. I think we have played three halfs of good football. I think the second half against FSU was ok, the second half of FAMU was ok, and obviously we know the second half against Louisville was awful. We can't win football games if we play like we did against Louisville in the second half."

Are you pleased with the rotation of linemen you have now?

"I am, and I think guys are helping us in spurts, but I would like to settle in and find three tackles and three ends that I can say, ‘ok, these are the guys, no matter who we put in the game, we are not going to lose anything and have a drop off.' I don't know if we have that right now. We are trying to find the right combinations. We are looking at four or five ends and tackles. The guys that play the best and settle in will play the next week."

How is Calais Campbell performing this season?

"For whatever reason, Calais has had health issues in the second half about being able to stay in the game. He has had to have IVs in all three games in the second half. He has only played like 25-30 snaps in a half. Unfortunately for us, every time he has been out during the second half is when people have been able to move the ball on us. We have got to find a way to keep him fresh. He is playing very well in the first half though."

David Lake can be reached at lake@canestime.com

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