Quote Sheet: Returning Starters

Max Gruder talks about how he feels the defense will be better suited to play against higher tempo offenses, and also the reaction time against a pro style offense. Ray Graham talks about how some of the younger players have stepped up around him.

Max Gruder

How had the defense developed since that first scrimmage?
"We mixed it up. It was the (first-team) offense versus the (second-team) defense, kind of like the spring game. That's kind of how it is; offense and defense compete every day. It goes back and forth. It's usually not consistent with domination from one side for a long time. It was a competitive scrimmage. It was fun. People got better and competed all day."

Can you still get a lot from playing against a second-team defense?
"You have to look at that Ronald Jones. He was flying around. He brought a punt back, a punt return. He was flying around; fly sweeps. The freshmen, in my five years of being here, are one of the best classes I've seen. It seems like the running backs and the receivers can just fly. They just all run and have great speed. It's tough to play even against the freshmen."

Did the defense meet its quota for tackles for losses and turnovers?
"I can't really recall the exact number, but every practice we shoot for a good amount of takeaways. In our game, our number-one goal is to be plus-3 in turnover margin. We get tackles for losses and we try to get takeaways. We get a good amount."

Any nice plays?
"There was a pass deflection, and Shane Gordon ran it back for a touchdown. He ran it back 40 yards, which is pretty nice. It was good to get our linebackers getting the pick-six."

What's the difference practicing against a high-tempo offense compared to practicing against a pro style?
"I think last year, and I know for me and our defense, the toughest challenge we faced was playing against a high-tempo, fast-pace type of offense. It's very challenging (to defend). That's why they do it. It challenges your conditioning, mentally you're trying to get your plays and you're trying to get back to the huddle in time for them to snap the ball. Going against them every day, I don't think it's possible for us to go against an offense that goes faster than ours does every day in practice. Nothing should come as a surprise, whether it's speed or the tempo. Nothing should come as a surprise, wherever we play this year."

Will you regress against a pro-style offense?
"No. It's something we joke about. It's going to be a little bit of a shock if a team huddles against us. We have time to sit there for more than a second. It'll be something we look forward to. Our defense has always played pretty well against I-formation, pro teams. That's something we definitely shouldn't regress on."

Ray Graham

How do you feel the offense has progressed since the first scrimmage?
"Coming out from the first scrimmage, we did much better. He had seven three-and-outs in the first scrimmage. The second scrimmage, we came out, first play touchdown by Tino. We just came out on a roll. We knew what we had to do for the scrimmage, and evaluate. We came out there, and we handled it well."

What's it like going from two running backs in the spring, to now six here in August?
"It's good. They keep fresh legs out there. It's helps with our energy. When we're out there, we get to go as hard as we can because we know we get a chance to get a break. I feel that helps out a lot with the freshmen coming in. Now, you can go that much harder. You get a rest when you come out. I think that helps out good."

How is the offense approaching the goal of running 82 plays a game?
"Saturday, we had a lot of people banged up, so we really didn't do too much for the second scrimmage. Coach wanted to evaluate a couple players, and see what they can do. That was what the second scrimmage was about."

Are you excited for the season to just start?
"It's been a long time since we played against another defense and see what we can do against another defense."

Do you like the tempo?
"I love the tempo. We move it real fast, but we don't even know how fast we're moving sometimes. We'll be moving at fast pace, and I like it. I think it's going to get defenses off their feet. It's going to be hard for defenses to switch."

What were some of the other big plays from the offense in the last scrimmage?
"Ronald Jones came out, and he played pretty well. Kevin Weatherspoon played real well too. Corey Davis and the other young freshmen, they did good too. That was exciting to see; seeing what they're capable of."

Who do you think is the fastest player on the team?
"I'm going to go with the man in my room, Corey Davis. I think it's Buddy Jackson, though, too. I want to say that (Jackson) is faster than (Davis). The fastest that I've been seeing every day on the field, has been Corey Davis. (Ronald) Jones has been looking real good. He's improving. The thing about this freshman class is they know what they have to do. They're not playing like freshmen. They're playing like they're playing for a spot. They know that we need their help, and that's what they're doing."

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