Sam Linebacker Garry Pack, who was third on the team in 2005 in tackles with 61 and tied for first in quarterback sacks with Patrick Willis and McKinley Boykin with 3, is expecting a lot more in 2006.
The reasons are pretty basic.
"Last year, we were all learning the defensive scheme for a lot of the season," he explained. "It was also my first year as a fulltime starter.
"This year, we all know the defense a lot better, which will allows us to turn loose and make more plays instead of playing cautiously, and my jitters over starting will be gone."
There is also the "little" matter of Pack being flanked by preseason All-American MLB Willis.
"When you are on the field with Patrick, he elevates everyone's game. We all know he's going to be giving it every ounce he has on every snap and you want to do the same," Pack noted. "He's our leader and it's easy to follow his lead."
In 2006, there will be a "bigger, stronger, faster" version of Pack.
"When I reported to summer camp, I weighed 219 pounds. I played around 222-225 last year," he stated. "Right now, I'm at 233 pounds and feel it's good weight. I gained it by making time to eat breakfast and by working our hard in the weight room. There were times last year when I just didn't feel I had time to eat breakfast. Now I understand the importance of it and am making time. It's paid off. I'm bigger and stronger and feel just as fast, if not faster."
Pack said the transition from 2005 LB Coach Shawn Slocum to new LB Coach David Saunders has been an easy one.
"Last year, we all were learning a new system. This year, we all know it," Pack repeated. "Coach Saunders is a good coach we all like playing for. I look for him to expand the LB package this year because we are able to absorb it now. We were kind of basic last year, but I look for us to do more stuff in 2006."
Everyone knows the chain reaction that occurs on defense. It starts up front. How well those guys perform will affect just about everything.
This year, the Rebs will have a "brand new" front four, but that is not an unsettling thing to Pack.
"After playing behind them in spring, I think they can be just as good as last year's front four," Pack noted. "I saw Peria (Jerry) in high school, so it doesn't surprise me he's stepped up to become a force on our DL. Haywood Howard also came in during spring and proved to all of us he can handle the job. We already knew what Jeremy Garrett and Chris Bowers could do and Brandon (Jenkins) had a productive spring.
"I think our front four will be better than some people think. We lost a lot of good players, but we aren't bare there. They showed me a lot of good things in spring and got better and better with each practice.
"We also have Jerrell Powe coming in and he's someone else I know something about. I saw him in high school and he can flat out play the game. He's got some special talents."
Pack believes in the 2006 defense.
"I feel we will be a very good unit. Anytime you have guys like Patrick, Peria, Trumaine McBride, Jamarca Sanford, Charles Clark, Bowers, Haywood, and others, you have to feel pretty good about what you can accomplish," he added. "We've got some work to do between now and September, but I like the pieces we have to work with and the progress we've made.
"We need to develop more depth in some places, but that will come. We have some good freshmen coming in and we have some younger guys who are starting to get it."
And another main ingredient - Garry Pack.
"I feel good about where I am right now. It's up to me to keep on working and getting better," he closed. "Because of my knowledge of the defense and experience, I know I'll be better and being better is something I look forward to."
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