Q&A with DL Coach Clint Hurtt

The defensive line has been tough against the run this year allowing just 63 rushing yards a game.

How would you so the defensive tackles have performed so far this season?

"I think they are doing a good job. Guys are coming along and we are getting better as the season progresses. Antonio Dixon was doing great in the practices leading up to FSU, but then he got dinged up with some injuries, but against Houston he started to play well again so I expect that to continue. Bryan Pata has played pretty well. Kareem Brown has been up and down, but when he is on he is on. It is not that Kareem is playing bad football, it is that I expect so much more out of him. When Kareem is good we are a totally different defense. Teraz McCray is starting to come along and the reason is in the beginning of the year he was a little bit heavy, but he has actually lost some weight and now he is back to his playing weight he was at before he ever got hurt. Dwayne Hendricks has been a pleasant surprise. He is finally back healthy and back in the mix and when each week goes by he gets better. The reps he gets he makes the most out of them. He has done well with every opportunity we have given him, so I got to give him more. He has earned it he can go out there and make plays and contribute. We are trying to get Richard Gordon prepared for third down situations. He is a freak down there so we are trying to teach him the fundamentals down there and he will be fine."

What did you see in Richard Gordon that made you want to make the move from tight end to tackle?

"We have a lot of great tight ends, but the thing you want to be able to have and is hard to find are guys that can rush the passer up the middle. That is the hardest thing to find on a football team. You have to have two or three guys at tackle that you can count on as a pass rusher. Dixon is more of a run stuff guy. Richard Gordon brings that mentality. He can also play the run. People look at his body type and say he is not a tackle, but he is 265 and a true freshman. Before he leaves here he will be a 290-295 pound guy. I think at defensive tackle he can change the game of football. That is what Tommie Harris is doing now in the NFL and he might be defensive player of the year. Richard Gordon has a lot of potential, but it is going to take time because we have to teach him the fundamentals of the game."

Why hasn't Kareem Brown lived up to the preseason expectations this year? A lot of people expected him to have a big year in 2006. "My standards are high. They are always going to be high. I am not going to allow guys to be averaged and be humble with it, and that is with Kareem or any other player here. Kareem knows that my standards are high. There are times he is going to be frustrated and he is going to feel like I am unreasonable. The thing I try to get him to understand is when you do get to that point of seeing how great you can bee if you reach your potential, then you have something to be excited about and build on. I need consistency from him. I can't have ups and downs. I need to know he is going to be a good player on a consistent basis."

Are you pleased with your three tackle rotation now of Pata, McCray, and Brown?

"I have got to get a fourth guy into the mix. Between Antonio Dixon and Dwayne Hendricks, I have got to get that fourth guy in there to balance out the reps. There has been three guys that have been taking 85 percent of the snaps. I would like for all four guys to get more snaps because we are talented enough to do that."

What does Dwayne Hendricks do well?

"As far as what he does well is the run game. He is outstanding in the running game and he reminds me of Santonio Thomas in that regard. Santonio was tough, stout, and played with great pad level. He had a good feel for combination blocks and his timing as far as when to get off blocks and make plays in the backfield. Dwayne has that same feel, and athletically he moves around better than Santonio did. He has gotten healthy and knocked the rust off so he is going to get better each week. He has had a great week of practice this week."

The defensive linemen have been saying that they are playing with more attitude the past two games. How important is attitude at the defensive tackle position?

"All the defensive coaches preach about playing with a nasty attitude and being passionate about playing the position. Playing defensive tackle is the easiest position mentally, but physically it is the hardest. The only way you are going to be successful as a defensive tackle is if you have the attitude that you are going to kick somebody's butt every snap. If you don't take that mind set and approach even before you get onto the field, you are going to have a serious time playing for me. I preach to guys all the time that we have to play with more physicallness."

David Lake can be reached at lake@canestime.com

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