"It's a great achievement but I credit it to the whole defense. We made some big plays and finally got some turnovers."
Do you get tired of people saying that you play because you're a good leader and you know the defense and not crediting your play on the field?
"It's just their assessment of my play. Sometimes they're correct and sometimes they're incorrect. It's all about the team. It's not about me."
You have a highly ranked run defense. Do you guys take pride in stopping the run?
"Yeah, that's something we talk about. We really want to stop the run. If you stop the run and make a team one dimensional, you have a better chance of being successful as a defense. So far we've been good with that. Now we have to improve the other side of our defense which is against the pass."
Why have you guys gotten so good against the run?
"We're just focusing on it and being real aggressive up front. We have a lot of athletes in the front four. Our ends are good and the tackles are playing really tough. It's just a combination of all those things."
How did you find out about winning the award?
"My mom told me. I'm happy. It's a great achievement but I still have things I have to improve on. I was happy because a lot of hard work has gone into the season so far so it's good to be recognized like that."
Did you ever think winning an award like this could happen after everything you went through last year?
"Well Coach Barrow has been getting on me about setting my goals high. He thinks a lot of me and he's put a lot of pressure on me. We worked hard together and as a group. He says the sky is the limit. It's just something that I've finally achieved and I'm happy I got it."
Has it been a surprise to you that so many freshmen have made an impact so far?
"It's not a surprise. I've seen it all camp. I talked about them day in and day out as far as them being capable of doing what they're doing. It's just getting the chances and opportunities and continuing to improve as well as getting acclimated to college. So far, they've done really well with that. It's not really a surprise to me. It's something that we expected as a team."
How would you assess the talent level of this team compared to last year?
"It's a different group. We've got a lot of freshmen in different spots like at receiver and on the defensive line. They can play. We maybe a little bit more talented but I just think our whole mindset is different."
How has your mindset changed?
"We just believe in each other a little bit more. We put in a lot of hard work over the summer and really focused on the team. It's not that we don't have athletes. It's that you have to work hard to be a successful team."
What's the biggest change from last year?
"I think our work ethic. Even in practice we work really hard. The things that we focus on, we take it to the game and it shows."
You guys gave up a 62 yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage last week. How did you bounce back from that?
"We bounced back well from that. It was something that we didn't expect to happen and we didn't want to happen but we bounced back. It was a long game. The kid is talented but we just focused on not letting that happen again."
How excited is the team going into conference play?
"Our goal this season is the national championship but first and foremost it's the ACC championship. You've got to win every game in the ACC. This is the biggest game right now. North Carolina has kind of been an issue for us. We're going to go into this game and play really well against them."
After last year's loss at North Carolina, is there a feeling of redemption motivating this team for Saturday?
"Yeah, we want to win this game. They've played us really hard the last three or four seasons. We just want to go in and set the tone for the ACC against a pretty good opponent. I wouldn't call it redemption but it's more setting the tone for ACC play."
What was it like causing the fumble and scoring?
"The whole game he was kind of holding the ball out. We were getting little pressure on him so we ran a blitz there. Colin (McCarthy) held him up. I saw it out there so I went after the ball and knocked it out. I just wanted to pick it up since I knew it was right by the end zone. That was kind of fun and exciting."
What did the guys say to you after you scored?
"Just congratulations and stuff. Just clowning and having fun. It's exciting for the defense to score. The offense always scores so for us to put one in the end zone was really helpful."