Can you maintain the defensive improvement you showed last year?
"I think we need to in order for us to be the competitive team we want to be and to do the things we want to do. To be successful, we need to do that. Can we do that? I think so. I really do. I think we're going to be as good as we were up front. I love to say we're going to be better, but I think we'll be just as good. We made a move last year. I think we'll be stouter inside. Stopping the run will be critical, and then getting off on third down – get in better third down situations and get some turnovers. Getting some more turnovers – that always makes the defense better."
On the difference in personnel from last year –
"Tommy Richardson did not only a good job playing football, but he ran the defense. As I said at the very outset of camp, more than one guy has to replace him. It's Kareen Taylor, it's Larry Edwards, it's the MIKE linebacker... You can't rely on one guy. They have to really work hard together to mentally prepare for every game so they can be prepared. We're not that good yet that we can have missed assignments. We were a good defense last year, because Tommy did a lot of the thinking."
On you're personal desire to see the defense improve –
"I played on three NFL No. 1 defenses, three years in a row, and I coached one in St. Louis. So yeah, I know what one looks like, and I know what it takes."
I'm sure you're proud of the improvement the defense has made?
"Absolutely, but we need to keep going. We need to keep pushing. We need to get better. We can't afford not to get better to help this football team."
How nice is it to be able to redshirt 20-25 kids?
"It shows the progress we've made. We're able to redshirt some really good players, who will become really good players for us. They're great athletes with speed. They've just got to learn how to play football better. We've thrown some lesser athletes out there when they were freshmen. So it's different this time."
Are you concerned about the lack of experience at wide receiver?
"We know that. We have talked about that. The thing about it, despite the fact that three of those guys have never caught a Division I pass. It might be frightening on paper, but the way they've practice, the way they've caught the ball, they way they're running routes, the enthusiasm they have for the game; it makes me think they're good players."
Which receivers has shown you the most?
"Hakeem Nicks has had an unbelievable camp for a freshman. Brooks Foster has been coming along really well. Brandon Tate is a great runner. We've got to manage Brandon and get him into the game. He may not be a guy who plays as much as Brooks or Hakeem. Hakeem may be our starter when we go out there on our home field on Saturday. We'll probably determine that Sunday or Monday."