"Just trying to help the defense out. Just keep everything going. Coach always says to be ready when your time comes, so I was ready."
What did the experience of having to survive without some of the key starters last year do for this group that you can see in the spring?
"We all got a lot closer as a whole. Without the superstars, everybody was counted on, so everybody just stepped into their roles and did their part. A lot of people got a lot smarter. Some of the young guys had to grow up fast."
This would normally be a rebuilding year in most people's eyes, but everything was moved due to last year's circumstances. How is the team's mentality and how much further along are you than you would have been?
"This is not a rebuilding year. We're just going to keep moving. If we don't make it to the BCS, if we don't win the whole ACC, we'll be disappointed because basically our whole defense returns this year. Everybody has starting games under their belt. Nobody's really a rookie, so we have a lot of people returning on offense and defense."
There's a lot of talented young guys on the outside – you, Darius Lipford, P.J. Clyburn. Can you talk about that group of guys fighting for jobs.
"Right now it's a battle, because people still have to learn. Spring ball is when everybody gets back into the groove of things. At the end of the day, Coach always says we're going to have at least six linebackers. He wants six, not four. He'll take four. Coach Kaufman always said if I have to move over to Sam and let somebody play Will, that's what he's going to do."
What's your role as a leader on the defense?
"Try to keep everybody together [and] make plays. When we're down, I just keep the spirits alive and tell the boys to never stop playing, because you never know what might happen in a game."
Is it nice to know you're not going to have to be in there 70 plays? I know you're going to play a lot, but you won't have to be in there every play.
"Yeah, it's good, but I want to try to do whatever I can to help the team. If that means I'm on every special teams, I'm going to be on every special teams and defense. If they ever say, ‘Zach, I want you to play running back, I'll play running back.' I'll do whatever it takes to help the team win."
You seem to really enjoy special teams. Can you just talk about that part of the game and how you bond with it?
"Really it's just you and one person, man-to-man. You really don't have to worry about all of the schemes. The schemes are not really difficult. We've probably got like four plays to run on all of special teams, so that's why I enjoy it."
From your viewpoint on the defensive side, can you give us an assessment of what you see from the offensive line and how it's changed?
"Our offensive line has gotten a lot stronger. They're a lot more experienced. Nobody's a rookie. Our offensive line is good. We got some running backs back. We'll have a 1,000-yard back this year probably."