Wilks Talks About the End of Spring

Defensive backs coach Steve Wilks had a crash-course in the Irish defense this spring. Wilks had the job of preparing a number of inexperienced players in a defense he was just learning himself. Wilks says he's pleased with the progress the secondary made this spring.

What was it like coming into a new program, getting to know the personnel and in an area that is very critical to the football team? "It was a great transition for me - it really was. I got here a week before spring ball. A lot of things we do defensively is a carryover, just different terminology. We have a great coaching staff on that side of the ball according to Coach Baer and we spent a lot of time one-on-one catching me up to speed. But the most important thing was the transition with the players, and I felt that went great. I met one-on-one with each guy before spring ball started; to talk about my philosophy and my expectations for the secondary and I think we had a great spring. Guys improved. Guys got better and guys competed, and as you can see with Zbikowski stepping up in the game, that was his thing all spring. He got better each and every day. Ndukwe did a tremendous job and obviously I can say name after name of guys that I truly felt improved; Freddie Parish; you got a guy like Carlos stepped up at times. You could see Mike Richardson; Preston Jackson getting in there seven-on-seven. I think those guys improved; the biggest step will be from this point on will be for them to continue to get better each and every day."

What will the defensive backs need to work on between now and fall camp? "Their focus right now as a secondary, as we've already talked about, is to continue to get better on their technique; to go out there each and every day because I can't be with those guys. We'll have things on paper; drills I would like those guys to work on, seven-on-seven, one-on-one; just trying to stay up because we won't have pads on this summer but they'll be able to get back in the weight room. I think the most important thing is for them to come in an watch the cut-ups from the spring to learn from the things they did right and from their mistakes and be able to see and visualize those things so they can get better."

Do you have anybody emerging as a leader, like Shane Walton did in 2002? "I think Zbikowski, and I tell my guys all the time, I don't care whether you're a senior or a freshman, everybody can lead. It's just that individual who wants to step up. I can see him doing that through his play. He's going to have to get a little more vocal. I think that will come through his maturity. We had two guys who didn't play this spring, Quentin Burrell and Preston Jackson, who I think, besides having experience, will be leaders. Dwight Ellick has played some and he's vocal at times. And I think Carlos stepped up. So that's one of the things that we continue to talk about, guys being vocal and stepping up and being that leader that we need back there."

Do you think the younger guys like Gardner and Wooden have pushed the older guys this spring? "I think they did. I think it was very competitive all spring long. I really do. Those guys are still in transition where Wooden is coming over from the offense and he is still learning. But the one thing I like about him, he's an athlete and he competes. I tell those guys all the time, we are going to be able to correct mistakes, just keep giving me effort and we'll work all of the other stuff out."

At practice, Coach, you seem to have a lot of energy. Is that your style? "That's always been my forte. You know, you have to have enthusiasm. Your players are going to feed off of you. I talked to my guys about this from day one. I'm not going to change, I'm going to set the tempo and I want my guys to set the tempo. I told these guys from day one when Coach Willingham talks about the defense, and really this team, I want him to talk about the secondary and how we approach practice and how we approach our business. I tell my guys all the time the quickest way to lose or win a football game is through error. We're the last line of defense. So we can't make any mistakes out there. And I think that starts with your attitude and your tempo, how you approach practice. We come out there and really work each and every day. You can see that, by the way we fly around and we're vocal out there at times but I think it's good because they respond to it."


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