Northwestern Spring Practice 1: Defense Part I

After the final scrimmage, the NU Coaches always talk with the media about the Spring Practices, changes that were made, what the team accomplished and who stepped up. <br><br> Here's Part I: <b>Defense 1</b>

This was quite a project - transcribing and combining our interviews with Head Coach Randy Walker, Offensive Coordinator Mike Dunbar and Defensive Coordinator Greg Colby.
Last year, the big story was the state of the Northwestern Defense - to be kind, the defenders were young, inexperienced, and got pounded in a couple of games.

This Spring, the players are a year bigger, stronger and older and NU is playing with an attacking style. One coach told me that we may get burned once in a while, but this year's defense is designed to stop the other team cold.

Here are the questions and answers from Randy Walker about the defense following the Spring Scrimmage.

Who early made some moves and bolstered their situation in your eyes as the Spring went along?

Obviously, we took a chance with some guys on defense, and its really good to see guys like Louis Ayeni and Torri Stuckey who came through a whole host of adversity in their careers here, coming into their fifth year and they are really playing well on defense, playing downhill safeties and they are guys who have overcome some bad luck and adversity and they're doing well.

Jeff Backes took to the defense like a duck to water, I think and again will give us some real quality play there. Some of the things we took a chance with and made some moves with on defense, turned out pretty well, the guys up front keep growing, and get bigger and stronger and playing better, and I think we have a chance to be a pretty solid defense.
Are you still labelled a 4-3 or primarily the 3 man front...
I like what we're doing out of a 3 man front, a package we have is a blitz package especially and we want to be more assertive. I like that word, assertive.

We're going to come after people, and we're going to come after 'em out of a "40" too.

The 40 will be a situational defense based on personnel. I still am concerned about the ability of a 3 man front to hold up in the running game against a conventional two back tight end offense. You might be a little shy there.

We will continue to believe that our base is our 40. So we're going to play both, again with the experience we have and the knowledge, we ought to be able to handle a lot of diversity as a defense, and I want to be very multiple and that's where we're going to try and take it.
Who would be your top defensive players?
I hate to say one guy because defense is the ultimate team concept of the game. With all those linebackers making those hits, they won't make those hits if those defensive linemen don't keep those offensive linemen off of them.

So guys like Colby Clark doesn't get the recognition, cause he'll be holding up two blockers and letting the linebacker run free to the ball. I think we have enough guys on that side of the ball that guys will really step up and have a chance to make big plays but we're just going to have to let that develop, I think they'll speak for themselves.

We have some good football players, but we have some team speed, and again they've matured and grown into some things I think will be pretty good.
On moving Offensive Players to the Defense
I've always recruited a number of tailbacks and skill guys. Of course you observant guys point that out ...

I've always believed that best football players on most High School fields are the Quarterbacks and Tailbacks. So we've taken, probably, a surplus.

[Senior Tailback] Jason Wright has staked a claim, if you will, to the tailback , he had 1200+ yards. I think Torri Stuckey is a heck of a football player, I think Jeff Backes is a heck of a football player, I know Louis Ayeni is a good football player.

Just get those guys on the field and the emergence of Noah Herron as a quality backup, gave us what we need there, so that's the natural progression. The same thing with Derrell [Jenkins] at quarterback.

I still think that Derrell Jenkins can be a quarterback. Its just I think he might have a chance to work himself on the field in other places.
Are you satisfied with the strides the Defense has taken
Yeah, very much. They had their moments, they had their ups and downs. I hope they realize we have a lot of work ahead of us, I hope they do, but I thought last year, nobody believed me last year, but if you think back and remember, I said last year that we're going to be a good defense - these kids are going to grow up some day.

We took our share of lumps last year, went through some hard times, but as I said all along, I like the kids, they've probably been shoved into a prime time before their time, but their day will come and its getting closer and we have a chance to be a real solid defense this year.
Next up will be Defensive Coordinator Greg Colby - his interview next.

Questions after the scrimmage came from the media:
Including: Skip Myslenski - Chicago Tribune, Larry Watts - Evanston Review,
Linsday Wilhite - The Daily Herald, Roy Lamberton - Purple Reign,
and reporters from WNUR and The Daily Northwestern
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