On the new starters on the offensive line:
"Ultimately I can go in, and make sure (Ryan Turnley) understands how to handle the snap, and how to come off, and still block people. He's been doing a great job. Juantez (Hollins) came on very strong at the end of camp on the backside of the line. They've all been doing a great job in developing as a core unit and working together. I think they're going to be great on Saturday."
How do you like the shotgun?
"It's different. Being under center, it made it a lot easier to locate safeties because you have to be able to locate those and understand where the coverage is coming from and where you need to make sure the ball is going to. The biggest thing for us is to secure the snap first. It kind of gets you away from under (center). We're able to make that adjustment, and it's our home now. You have to be used to it, and you have to be ready to roll."
Is it harder, then, to have the ball snapped under center, then looking for the defense?
"In order to develop in the shotgun, you have to be able to look and catch without even looking at the snap. That's how we've been able to develop. We've been able to really find snaps, and be able to catch them without really looking down at it. You can keep defenses and see what they're bringing; whether or not it's a blitz and if (the defense) is vulnerable. We've been able to develop it in our quarterback room and see if we can keep doing it, and see if we can secure it on Saturday."
What's the difference between making your first career start at Utah, and now making your 14th career start at home Saturday against Buffalo?
"You know what to expect in year two. Last year, you're going into a game where you didn't expect the speed of the game, you didn't expect the environment. It's a little bit different going out and playing in your first game. Now, a guy has played for a whole year. You know how to handle the preparation during the week. You know how to handle the emotion before the game. You know how to handle that first quarter, and kind of keep your levels even keel; even how to hydrate. Last year, I cramped really bad in the first game. I know what I need to do, know how to play at a high level and to make sure we're playing fast throughout the game. I'm ready for it."
How do you keep all the offensive weapons happy?
"I don't think it's going to be like that because there's so many people highlighted. You have a sheet, and each guy is going to touch the ball so many times; highlighted plays. We're going to make sure everyone gets a touch, see who's hot. That's the nice thing about having all these explosive players; you have a lot of different weapons in a lot of different areas to be able to get them the ball. If someone's really feeling it during that game, we're going to try to feed that. You're going to have your key guys; Devin Street and Ray Graham, Mike (Shanahan), Cam (Saddler). Those are definitely the guys who are going to get most of the balls and be able to convert; hopefully stay hot throughout the game and throughout the year. We can move the chains and score a lot of points."
You've played corner also?
"I played (corner) three years in high school, and covered a lot of great receivers; a lot of guys that went DI. It's a challenge, but I can do it."
Are you a safety, a linebacker, or both?
"Both. Right now, Coach Graham saw an opportunity for me to play the Spur and play it. I'm only 190, and people are like, ‘Why is he playing linebacker?' I think using my speed and my low center of gravity helps going against these big guys."
Did you play linebacker in high school?
"I did (in the 2007 WPIAL Championship against Gateway). It was more safety, but it was down in the box. We knew they were going to run a lot with Cam (Saddler)."
How different are your responsibilities as the Spur in this defense?
"I like to think of it when I was playing safety. It was primarily pass. Being a Spur, I have to play both. I have to recognize pass fast, and recognize run and make tackles, make hits and what not. It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's something that fits for my speed and it's something that's physical. I love to hit and get down in the box, so I think it's going to work."
How did this start…did you ask the coaches, or did the coaches ask you?
"They came to me. From day one, (Graham) said something about Spur. In the spring, I didn't really get a look at it. In the beginning of camp, he said, ‘We're going to try and get you in there.' It took a week or two, and then he said, ‘We're going to get your reps in there.' One thing led to another, and I kind of caught onto it fast. They've put trust in me and I feel good playing this position."
Do you have tight ends and tackles coming at you?
"Oh yeah. Fullbacks. I think that's where a lot of people are surprised that I'm playing linebacker, is that I'm going against tight ends and fullbacks. What they have in size, I have in speed. I can beat them, and kind of avoid them if I need to. I can get lower than them. It's our weights kind of counteracting."
Who's the biggest guy you had to fight off so far?
"KK (Mosley-Smith), (Tuesday) in practice, he was in at fullback and (the offense) blocked down, and it was me and him full speed going at each other. That hurt a little bit."
Is it still a situational position, or are you at linebacker full-time?
"When you go against a team like Iowa, that's two tight ends and two running backs, a huge fullback. Am I the best choice in there? It depends on the situation. If we go against Notre Dame or Cincinnati, who is a spread offense, I think I'm better suited because I've been playing the pass all three years so far. I understand it pretty well, but to say I can't (play linebacker) against Iowa, I know I can. It just might make more sense, physics-wise, to have someone who's a little bigger in there."
You'll be in there 3rd-and-long situations?
"For practice, and everything, I've been working 1st-and-10, every down. I know I can do it. They haven't said anything else, like, ‘You're only in there on third down.' As far as I'm concerned, I can be an every down guy unless things change."
Does blocking punts help with how fearless you are?
"It's a little different with a one-pound ball on a punt (laughs). I think with the size I am, you have to play fearless. Even (Tuesday), when I'm going up against KK, or if I'm going up against fullbacks, you just have to go for it."
Do you embrace this move as a way of seeing the field even more with the depth at safety?
"Definitely. My goal this camp was to just get on the field as much as I can. I know I can play safety. When the opportunity has presented itself, to get on the field, I'm going to pounce on it. Special teams is still big for me. If I can play as much defense—maybe every down on defense—and all special teams, I'm making up for time lost when I hurt my knee and last year when I hurt my groin. That's how I'm approaching it."
Did you play linebacker in certain packages last year too?
"Coach Bennett had a couple things where Dom (DeCicco) was more in the position I'm at now. Especially when we went nickel last year, we had a bunch where I was in there, down in the box. It's not a stranger to me, and I feel comfortable with it."
Then, you too can go off to play linebacker for the Bears, just like Dom? "Sure (laughs). I think I need some HGH, first."
How many punt blocks have you had at Pitt?
Do you have a number (of punt blocks) in mind for this season?
"E.J. (Borghetti) and I, we found the national record (for punt blocks in a career) is ten. If I can get six this year, I'll break the record. I have two years left, so if I can go three (this year) and three (as a senior), then we're good."