Interview With DC Kent Baer Part II

In part II of our in-depth interview with Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer, we explore the emerging talents across the defensive line, learnings from the Baltimore Ravens defense, trying to replace Willie Howard, second year players and incoming first year freshmen.

Make sure you have checked out Part I of the interview

Overall D (cont.)

Did the D coaches go to Baltimore to study the Ravens' D? Are they looking to retool the D or just pick up a few ideas? (Another Fan in Ill)

Kent Baer: We just know a lot of those guys. I've known Marvin Lewis forever and Donnie Henderson one of the secondary coaches. I hired Donnie and that's how he got into coaching when was first a GA. He was my GA and then stayed at Utah St. That's how he met Brian. They do a lot of things that we do or we do a lot of things that they. We have similar coverages and fronts. We just wanted to look to see if we could pick up something. I was fun to talk to them. Obviously they're a talented defense with a whole lot of talent up front. We were just looking at a couple of ideas. If it did anything, it confirmed that we are doing some things right. I think we are doing some things that we feel very good about as a staff. It's not a big wholesale revamp or anything like that.

What's the defense's area of greatest strength? What's the most troublesome area? (Terry)

Kent Baer: I like the experience we have coming back. I think that's probably our biggest strength. I think they list 7 or 8 eight starters coming back. But if you look at the list of guys (Kent starts counting) I count 13 guys that have started at one time or another that are coming back on that defense. Guys like Brian Taylor have started some games for us. He not listed as a starter. Guys like Travis Pfeifer have started for us. He's not listed as a starter but he certainly has some experience. I like the experience we have coming back. I think that's probably our biggest strength. Our kids understand what we expect, what we want. We are headed in the same direction.

Kent Baer: Troublesome area >>> We have to make up for the amount of sacks we got from a 4 man pass rush from Willie Howard and Riall Johnson. I think that's the biggest concern right now. We don't have guys coming back that can rush the passer like that. We are looking at doing some other thing schematically, especially in our nickel and dime packages. I'm not going into because its something we're doing and a like and we'll see how it works out. I like some of the things we've done. The exciting part is that we have some good young players. A lot of people don't realize that Coy Wire was number two in sacks on the team last year. He has the ability to create some things and make things happen. We're just looking at some things schematically that we tried last spring that I really liked that I really like and we will continue to work on. I don't want to blitz all the time.

Who are the most improved players? (Terry)

Kent Baer: Trey Freeman is the first player that comes to mind. The change that he has made in terms of shaping his body. He couldn't play two or three plays in a row with out coming out of the game. He's made a great improvement and had a tremendous spring. Marcus Hoover has really improved. Two or three years there were a question in lot of people's minds on whether he would play for us or not. He comes to the point where he is one of our better leaders if not one of our better football players. Obviously Coy Wire has done a great job. I really like Simba Hodari and the strides he's made. I just hope he is healthy enough to continue to play. I think those players are the most improved.

Freshmen

What newcomers may surprise us this fall? And who are the most likely breakthrough performers--the guys whose games improve the most over last season? (Hulk)

Who are some players who may surprise us this year that we may not know much about? (Irishguru)

Who are the most likely to play as frosh? (Another Fan in Ill)

Comment on the redshirt freshmen DBs, Torrence, Wilson and Atogwe? How will he use them? Who will play the most? (Terry)

Kent Baer: Incoming Freshmen >>> I like the talent we have coming in. It's a very talented group. I think the closer you play to the ball the tougher it is to play as a freshman physically. Although you look at Mark Anderson and he looks like he could play right now. I saw him walk on the field and I thought it was some NFL guy. Michael Craven certainly looks like he's to a point (physically) where he could play right away.

Kent Baer: Redshirt Freshmen >>> I think Stanley Wilson and Leigh Torrence are two of the guys who are going to have to step up and play. I like what they've done and I believe they will be somewhere in the mix. I don't see them starting right now. I see Ruben and Ryan Fernandez being the two starters right now, at least going into the first game. I like the direction they're headed. I think Amon Gordon and David Bergeron have to play for us somewhere. We toyed with David Bergeron playing outside backer in the spring because Anthony was hurt and we ended up moving him. I'm not sure that's where he's going to end up (OLB). I don't think he's going to start for us this year but he's a guy that going to play for us a lot. Amon Gordon has a tremendous amount of talent. Those will guys from last year's freshman class are the guys most likely to play.

DL

How much do we drop off after Willie? Can we hold it together with Freeman, Leonard, and Albrecht on the line talent wise and depth wise? Or do young pups OJ and Mark figure into the mix sooner than we think? Not much has been said about Craig A. (Cardinal Scott)

Kent Baer: I think we're fine there right now. If we were to start tomorrow Trey would play the nose, Matt Leonard play the tackle or three technique (the position Willie played last year). Matt Leonard is a TALENT. He has a tremendous amount of talent. If we can continue that talent, I like where at in terms of that position. I think Trey is going to be a good nose guard for us. Trey's back up will be Craig Albrecht and Matt Leonard's back up will be Travis. Travis also knows how to play both spots so that gives you 2 and a half deep. Again, I think it's really hard to play as a freshman the closer you play to the ball. That means the line and the backers. It's just more difficult. When you're a DB or a WR, maybe a RB you have a chance to use your athleticism a little more with out getting pounding every down.

Is Lee sufficiently healed to be a factor? If not, who gets first nod to replace him? (Another Fan in Ill)

Kent Baer: I talk to almost every day and he says he's knee is fine and he doesn't have any swelling. I think he will be ready to go. I think the first guy to step in would be Drew Caylor and, obviously, if we lost one of those guys maybe Mark Anderson would have to step in as a true freshman. Cooper Blackhurst who did a great job for us last year in the spring. He's a guy who understands the position because the position in high school. He uses his hands very well. Then you have guys like Luis Hobson and Will Svitek that had a nice spring. They're young guys that maybe we thought of like we did Marcus Hoover a few years ago. That's what training camps are for.

Is Hobson going to contribute? If so, is he the answer for a pass-rushing DE? (Long Winded)

Kent Baer: I don't know yet because I haven't seen it. He could he has some ability. I think he's going to play for us this year. It's about time, he's ready to give us some quality reps.

What is the talent gap between the Willie Howard who graduated and the current Matt Leonard? (Long Winded)

Kent Baer: (Kent laughs and then sighs) I really don't know how to answer this one. (Kent takes a long pause). They're both two different players. Obviously Willie brought so much more to the table in terms of enthusiasm plus how hard he played the game. Matt may be as athletic as anyone we've ever had in there. He truly is a great athlete and may be a little bigger. He's a little more of a wide body in there. I really believe there may be some things Matt, down the road, could do as well if not better than Willie. I'm not sure we're going to get the enthusiasm or the intensity that we got with Willie.

Does he have any defensive linemen who can provide a pass rush? (Terry)

Kent Baer: Yeah I think so. I think Marcus Hoover, from what I saw in the spring, has really developed into a good pass rusher. I think that Austin Lee has (developed into a pass rusher). Trey Freman does some things from the inside, naturally as a pass rusher, that makes you go WOW. It's matter of those guys stepping up. They don't have as many sacks because they didn't play as much, as Willie and Riall never came out of the game (they didn't get as many chances). I think you will see these guys with some sacks. I think these guys will rush the passer a little better than people imagine.

In the third installment of our interview, Coach Baer talks about the linebackers and defensive backs.


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