The nerves started to kick in for Sebastian Joseph in the locker room before Saturday’s scrimmage. Set to start at the three-technique with Darius Hamilton ruled out, the redshirt freshman started to overthink things.
Then Hamilton, who watched the scrimmage from the sidelines, did what team captains do.
“I did [feel it] a little bit,” Joseph said on the pressure of replacing Hamilton. “Darius talked to me. He told me, ‘just go out there and play hard and do you. I know you can do it. Just go out there and relax.’ After that I just settled in, and I played how [defensive line coach Jim Panagos] wants.”
Joseph started alongside junior Kenneth Kirksey at defensive tackle. He received praise from coach Kyle Flood that night, and continued to show improvement over Monday and Tuesday as he remained with the ones.
“Obviously it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a blessing, so I’m just going to keep running with it, keep trying to get better, keep taking it day by day and trying to progress.”
Flood said he expects Hamilton back this week, which moves Joseph back to the second team upon the return. Until then, Joseph wants to do everything he can to earn playing time in the opener.
Joseph played one game last season before an injury led to a medical redshirt.
“I’m really excited to help our team get a win if they decide to put me in,” Joseph said. “ … I’ve been able to make plays but I still need to focus on the fine detail. It looks good, but at the end of the day the details are what’s going to help our team succeed.”
The challenge for Joseph in Hamilton’s stead is to relearn the three-tech position. The 285-pounder moved to nose tackle in spring, and the techniques at his new position have been a challenge so far.
“I think my biggest problem now with the consistency is me converting into pass rush now,” Joseph said. “ … That’s probably one of my biggest flaws right now.”