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With Kentwan Balmer having graduated, do you expect to see some of the double teams he saw last year?
"Kentwan took a whole lot of pressure off me because they doubled him a lot - he used to kill double teams. But I'm definitely looking forward to double teams. I feel like if you don't double team me, you're disrespecting me."
How would you describe new defensive coordinator Everett Withers?
"Fired up guy. He said today, 'You better be ready for practice because I'm going to drink 10 cups of coffee.' So basically what he's saying is he's definitely going to be fired up and ready to go each and every day. Coach Withers is a very intelligent guy about the game, one of the best defensive back coaches when he was in the NFL, and I think he's going to take our defense to the level where we can compete with the best teams in the country."
How much is he stressing how you guys need to improve on your turnover margin from last year?
"That's one of the things that he and Coach Davis have stressed the most. If you win the turnover margin, you're probably going to win the game. Coach Davis and our coaches have stressed that, and in practice we'll be punching and stripping and the offense is going to carry the ball high and tight. The turnover margin is definitely something we're trying to [focus on]."
T. J. Yates
How much do you expect having a set running back in Greg Little at the start to help the offense?
"Hopefully it'll do wonders because everyone knows having a running game opens up the passing game and I think the last two games [of last season] were evidence that we will have a running game this year. Greg's an outstanding back and I think he's going to open up a lot for the offense."
Having played a year now, how much farther along are you entering this season?
"Last year at this time we were all trying to learn the offense. This year offense is the last thing we're thinking about - we're thinking about defenses and what we're going to do against those defenses. We talk as much as we can about defenses. Everybody has the offense down, everyone is comfortable with it and now we're trying to take that next step."
With so many weapons at your disposal, does that take a lot of the pressure off you to make the play?
"Absolutely. There are times when I have to squeeze it in, but the majority of the time we'll take what we can and give them the ball and let them make the play. Coach Shoop always says, 'Plays gain yards, but players score touchdowns.'"
Now that you're a full-time running back,
"As with anything, with practice you're going to get better. With me being here with the running backs, I'll only progress even more. [Having so little practice with the running backs and] still being able to be productive last year was a good sign. Going into camp I feel I can be that 1,000-yard back that we've been missing."
How have you done putting on the needed weight to be a go-to running back?
"Right now I'm weighing in at 225 and me and Coach Connors have worked very hard at that. Throughout the summer as a team we've made strides and everyone has gotten stronger and faster."
What are your thoughts on being the feature back going into the year?
"I'm very excited. There are four wide receivers and one ball, and one running back and one ball, so that pretty much is self explanatory. You're going to get the ball directly and you're going to get it more often, 20-25 times a game. That's what I'm excited about - I'm going to touch it more and that's going to give me more opportunities to make plays."
What makes you think the offensive line will be better this year than a year ago?
"The main thing, especially for me, I feel like being in the same offense for more than a year is great, having the same set of coaches, knowing each other better and last year we had a lot of young guys play and now we have a lot of experience, and we only lost Scott Lenahan. So, we're just ready to roll."
Seems like you guys are a more confident group this year ...
"We feel great. In the offensive line room we know we have a lot of depth -- feeling like we have a lot of guys who we can work in and play, and get a good rotation going to keep guys healthy and let some younger guys get their feet wet and get comfortable."
How much did the close losses motivate you and what'll it take to get over that hump this season?
"One thing that's been in our heads since last season is getting our bodies mentally prepared to finish. A lot of times last year it was us keeping ourselves down with mental errors and this year we've got a lot of guys that have played quite a bit - their confidence level is higher, they've had an offseason to get their bodies where they feel it needs to be, guys have gotten smarter in the film room understanding things they didn't understand last year."
What are some of the differences between defensive coordinators Chuck Pagano and Everett Withers?
"I think the biggest change is just the guy himself - the way he interacts and the way he coaches. There's really not a whole lot of difference in the system. ... [Coach Withers] is very upbeat, very enthusiastic. He said the first time we do a pursuit drill in practice he'll try to beat us to the ball. He's very hands on and that brings a lot to the table."
How much smarter will the defense be this year?
"It should be a lot faster and smarter than last year, just because of a year of experience. Chase and I are the only seniors, but we've got an older defense in terms of game experience."
As a defender, what do you see in practice from Greg Little about what makes him a good running back?
"Greg's obviously an unbelievable athlete and he's versatile in so many different ways - running with the ball, catching the ball. He brings that power running game that we've lacked here. We're lucky he's got a lot of years left here ... He has a natural knack for running the football. You turn on the film and it looks like he belongs at running back - it came very natural to him."
Is it reasonable to expect a team that won four games last year to make a quantum leap forward?
"We believe in ourselves. We understand what we want to do and it starts now. We want to win the ACC and we have our own goals and that's what we're going to set out to do. ... We have to stop the run, create more turnovers and get off the field on third down - things we need to improve on from last season."