“That’s a personal goal for me, I feel like. That’s not on my mind right now but it’s a personal goal I want to do.”
Give Will Redmond credit, he is setting his senior season goals high. And why not? Coming off a 2014 campaign with the fifth-most tackles on the team, three interceptions, and a good collection of break-ups and shut-downs, attention is going to come this cornerback’s way in fall.
Oh, and all those stats were compiled as an alternate. Redmond did not start a single game as a junior. That should change in the senior year though. With his final college spring camp underway Redmond has stepped into the first unit, just as expected.
Tuesday was Mississippi State’s third working day of spring. It was also the first day in full pads, and if all-out tackling was still not allowed wearing armor did lend the defense a little more freedom to make their presence known. Redmond and defensive backs certainly tried to, within limits.
This is Redmond’s third spring, but his first under new management. With Manny Diaz now coordinating the defense there will be some natural adjustments to how Bulldog cornerbacks operate. Maybe nothing major in straight-up coverage of course, but in how the secondary functions on the whole and for that matter within the entire context.
“Coach Diaz preaches he wants everybody to be in-synch,” said Redmond. “I think we’re getting a feel for each other with him pushing us more to come together as a unit.”
A unit that has to replace some significant parts. Redmond’s own corner was opened-up by the graduation of Jamerson Love. At safeties, injuries and graduation mean two new first-teamers for spring and for that matter brand-new backups. Even the returning starter, cornerback Taveze Calhoun, is sidelined from contact this camp.
But that is, shall we say, secondary to the larger 2015 goal. Veterans or not, the unit is trying to build on what was done well last fall and fix flaws that showed up in the three losses. Redmond does not think any whole-sale change is needed.
In fact, he said, “I wouldn’t say need for improvement, we’ve always got good guys. I mean we made some mistakes early on in the secondary. But I feel we’ve got the best guys in the nation on our team. We just have to get better, get in our playbook.”
What is not in the spring playbook, but is absolutely stressed, is something foundational to defense. And, something with which Bulldog defensive backs did have some costly breakdowns last season. Tackling. This isn’t anything to do with schemes and sets, Diaz is telling the Dogs.
It is effort, and technique. The first is stressed, and the latter is being taught in a fresh way.
“Every circuit, or every time we get some off-time, he wants us to practice our tackling,” Redmond. “So he’s got this new way of tackling and he wants us to implement it in our game.” Implement how? This is where Diaz has added an interesting twist to teaching. Each defensive position coach takes turns showing the other three groups some aspect of contact/wrap up/bring down.
It might look odd for defensive line coach David Turner to show a 185-pound cornerback how to put a receiver on the turf. But it’s working, apparently.
“It helps, the fact that each coach knows what to do and how to teach it, it helps all of us,” Redmond said.
Speaking of teaching…there is a pup on the cornerback pound who needs a lot more of this than usual. But career-corner Redmond is happy to have wide receiver Jamoral Graham working on defense this spring.
“Yeah, that’s my little brother! He’s a real tough guy.”
Practice itself is about to get tougher, in the right way, since soon the hitting is for-real. The teaching will continue too, and Redmond is making himself a more serious student of his craft. For good reason.
“With Coach Diaz coming in my mindset is be learning the playbook and figure out what we’re doing.” And the tackling technique? “I take that as a big part of my game. Everybody wants a corner who can tackle.” Everybody as in professional football…which is where Johnthan Banks now works, come to think of it. You know, the guy with that Thorpe Award to his MSU credit?
Yes, Redmond said, Banks knows about the current Dog’s ambition to be the second Thorpe winner at Mississippi State. “I called him that day, I texted him did you see my tweet?” said Redmond. “He said yeah, so it’s cool!”