Q&A with Dave Huxtable, Part IV

<i>Inside Carolina</i>'s Buck Sanders sat down with North Carolina defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable for an exclusive one-on-one interview. This is part four - the final installment.

How big was it for this defense that Dexter Reid decided to return, instead of entering the NFL draft?

It is huge for us defensively, because Dexter is a leader for us. Dexter always comes to practice - he always comes to play. You would take a whole lot of Dexter Reids. I have a very high opinion of Dexter; I think he is a heck of a football player and really like him a lot as a person.

He is a real leader for us on defense and it is huge that he is going to be back with us and to be the leader for us on our defense.

How do you feel about the depth at cornerback next year?

We'd love to have one or two more, but I think Michael Waddell is going to have a really good year. He is coming off that leg injury, but Michael is going to have a good spring. D.J. Johnson, who played some last year when we were in a nickel situation and D.J. came in, as a corner, so he's got some game experience and will play at the other corner across from Michael.

And then Cedric Holt, who as a true freshman last year got an opportunity to play some last year and did not do too badly out there. He is a very talented kid, so he will give us some depth at the corner position. Jacoby Watkins, who was red-shirted last year, is a big, good-looking kid that runs very well and I am very anxious to see him play this spring, so he'll give us some more depth.

Then Lionel Green, who we won't have this spring, but is a really good player and I am anxious to get him here this fall and see what he can bring to help us.

So, we've got some good depth there. We'd love to have one or two more, but I feel we've got some good depth there and should be a real strength for us.

Overall, with the players you will have available next fall, you must be feeling much more comfortable about your depth situation across the board?

Most definitely. It is just a luxury. I feel much more comfortable. It is a comfort that we have more depth and now the key is going to be to stay healthy and not lose that depth.

There is nothing better than having competition - position, by position, by position. Because now, no kid can take a down off, no kid can come not ready to practice, not ready to play, because there is somebody fighting to take that position.

We didn't have that competition last year, I didn't feel. This year, we've got depth where it should be competitive every day just from a depth standpoint.

It looks like Coach Tranquill will have about all the players that project to start next fall already available to him this spring, while the defensive two-deep may have to wait until the fall to settle. Will that change how or what you will do in spring practice?

It really won't at all from a defensive standpoint. We're going into the spring with the attitude that we're going to coach these kids just like it were the fall. These are the ones that are here right now, these are the ones we are playing with, those kids that come in the fall we'll fit them in when they get here and see what they will contribute. But, it doesn't really change our approach.

I'm happy for Tranq, I'm happy for us, that's great, let's go. But as far as from a defensive standpoint it doesn't really change how we will approach the spring.

How does spring practice from fall practice differ in terms of what you what you try to accomplish?

You want to install as much as you can on defense, I'm sure Coach Tranquill will do the same on offense, so that the kids can learn the terminology and everything else.

But in the spring, we really want to focus on the basics and the fundamentals. It is a time when you are not really preparing for a game on Saturday, so you are not worrying about game planning. You are teaching your defense, for the young kids that were red-shirted, who didn't play as much last year, and you are teaching the fundamentals and the basics of linebacker play, of defensive line play, of defensive back play. Because you are not preparing for an opponent you can really put a lot of emphasis in your fundamentals, you have to do that during the season as well, but at the same time you have to work a game plan. In the springtime you can really focus in on those things and drive those things home.

How much progress can a defense make from one year to the next?

We have no where to go but up. I am expecting a lot of progress. It is not going to come easy. We've got to work hard as a defensive staff and we've got to work hard as a defensive unit. I am expecting to see tremendous progress and how far we can go with it will depend on our work ethic and the attitude we have towards our work and how good we want to be.

I expect a hard work ethic, great attitude, very excited, anxious, and feeling very positive about it and play good defense next year.

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