"Last year we had a good rotation, but this year with James (Castleman) growing up and adding Calvin (Barnett), it's going to give us a little bit more cushion to where each one of us can go all out on every play. We won't have to worry about getting tired because of the depth and the experience of our guys."
How would you rate the defensive line at the midway point in the spring?
"If I was rating this defensive line on a scale of 1-through-10 it would be an eight right now. We've matured, we're in better shape, running to the ball more and just being generally more aggressive up front."
Is the depth the biggest improvement or is it the experience or physicality?
"Yes (laughing). Every morning I see us working in the weight room getting stronger, getting more explosive. We are really improving our strength and aggressiveness up front."
You said you'd rate your line as an eight. What would you need to see to give it a 10?
"I guess it would have to be just running to the ball more. I still hear coach Young yelling, ‘Run to the ball! Run to the ball!' When we all just really buy into it and sprint full out to the ball on every play, then we'll get that 10."
You've been asked to do a lot since you've been here. You've been asked to gain weight, then drop weight and a number of other things. What has been the biggest hurdle you've had to overcome?
"Getting burned out too quickly. I would go four or five plays really good but as it went on I'd start to fade off a little bit. Right now, every practice I'm running with coach (Rob) Glass to get my speed and endurance up. That's been the biggest struggle for me. My endurance is getting better and my strength is getting better."
You've taken on more of a leadership role as you've gotten older, can you address how you've made strides in that area?
"When I first got here I was a little quiet, but now I'm stepping up to the plate. I realized I need to coach the younger guys to do what they need to do and be enthusiastic about coming down here every day and being a part of this defense."
Obviously Nigel Nicholas was a huge part of your interior defense last season but now he's moved over to end. Naturally the increased depth has allowed for that move. How big of a luxury is that for the line overall?
"I look at it like this: Nigel moved from a three-technique going against 320-pound lineman with a double team to now being on the edge with just one guy against him. I feel like he's going to make a lot of noise out there this year. It also gives us the opportunity to get more people's feet wet at the three-technique position and really get a feel for the game while still having our best guys out there."
How much improvement have you seen from James Castleman and some of the other young guys just this spring?
"I see a lot. When James first got here, he was a little rusty on his plays and going the wrong direction or getting confused a little bit. He's shown big improvement. He knows the plays down pat and it's freed him up. He's running to the ball, he's physical and he's a good attribute to this defensive line."