Do you care that the committee dropped you from No. 3 to No. 4?
The committee has their own agenda. It is what it is. I can’t really speak on that or control it. We’ve got to get ready.
Can you put into words this season as a whole?
It’s been crazy. You could probably make a movie about it. Just everything we went through in the offseason, how last season ended and everything we’ve gone through, the Texas loss this year and bouncing back and being able to win seven straight do-or-die weeks straight in the conference schedule. It’s been crazy, man. I don’t think any other group of guys could have did it except the guys we’ve got in this locker room. I think the locker room switches, everything we’ve gone through has helped us get closer as a team.
What effects have all the changes have over the course of the season?
It’s just been kind of crazy. So, everything that we’ve gone through has actually helped us get to this point. Obviously, we’ve got hopefully two more games, and obviously, a big one on the 31st, and I think this is the most complete team, the most put together team I’ve ever been a part of in my life, any sport. So it’s a good feeling around the locker room.
How much has the secondary gone through a maturing process?
Just growing up, and guys being more serious about the game, especially in the back end, guys playing a lot better as a whole. It’s just guys putting in that work in the offseason. We told ourselves we weren’t going to play like that ever again, at least while we were here, so the leaders decided to make a change, and the younger guys bought in.
As a leader on the team, what will be your message?
To be honest, I think everybody has the same singular focus. I think everybody knows what’s in front of us and what we’re playing for, so I don’t think it’s anything that necessarily the leaders or the captains need to say to the team. I think it’s a hundred guys in there ready to go. Anything other than that is just prepare the right way. Doing extra stuff, which most of those guys already know. So there’s no special potion, no words we need to say. We know what we’ve got to do.
Does your recent history with Clemson or Alabama matter in the College Football Playoff?
No, and I don’t think any of it is about getting teams back or them trying to get us back. The ultimate motivation right now is trying to win a national championship. I don’t think you need to say much about it much more. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so me personally, I didn’t care who it was or where it was. I think guys are more excited about the opportunity to play.
How big has Kerry Cooks been for this defense?
He’s been huge. For me, taking my game forward and such, and then the younger guys, getting them to respond in bad situations a lot better than a year ago. He’s been that father figure leader for us. On the sideline and off the field. It’s not always about football, it’s about schoolwork and going to class and things like that. He knows everybody’s goal here is to play at the next level, and that’s what he does best, get us prepared to be professionals. I think it shows on the field, the way guys respond and the way they carry themselves.