Q: Is there any linebacker position that you are more comfortable at, or one that you prefer?
A: There's not necessarily one I prefer. I enjoy playing and competing so I'd play literally anywhere on the field. It could be defensive end for all I care, as long as I got a chance to compete out there. But I like the Mike linebacker because you're facing the heart of the offense. You can have a big impact and create chaos across the field.
Q: What do you think are your biggest strengths and weaknesses, either at the Mike or outside? Does it change depending on where you're playing on the field, or are they more general?
A: For now, what I bring to the defense is a lot of energy and a lot of willpower because I have a lot of things to learn. I'm learning from Clint [Snyder] how to approach the game technically. Obviously, with time, the athletic aspect of the game will grow for me, but for right now, it's an energy level that I hope I can contribute.
Q: In terms of what you're learning from guys like Snyder, you're talking about the technical aspects, but is there anything else they've been able to help you with from a veteran perspective?
A: Oh, definitely. Will Powers, when you watch him play, the one thing he's great at is using his hands. In terms of taking on blockers, he's phenomenal. I've learned a lot from watching him in that regard. I've watched Clint's mastery of the defense, and not just how he contributes but how he helps others. He helps me a lot of the time, so that aid and leadership is something I hope to fill eventually in the future.
Q: How have you felt about the transition from high school to college? How has it gone? Have there been any surprises, either on or off the field, as you transition to college as a student?
A: I went to prep school, so I was fortunate enough to have a transitional period and summer school certainly helped to learn about the classes and what's expected of us as Stanford students. One of the biggest adjustments is the time you have to take out on your own, and the personal dedication to your school work. In terms of the game of football, I knew guys were going to be bigger, faster, stronger, but guys are a lot wilier—that's the best way to put it. You can't just get by on physical tools or sheer tenacity—you have to be smart about the way you play.
Q: Speaking of the way you play. Blitzing, pass coverage—what do you think you do well? What do you think you need to improve upon?
A: I definitely need to improve upon my pass coverage. If you look at the older guys, the guys that are starting, they definitely have a better understanding of pass defense, so I need to put myself in better position. I feel that I can just play an aggressive level of football, and that's where I can contribute, and I'll pick up the more delicate aspects of the game as I go along.
Q: You have a bit of a family history here. How big of a factor was that in your ultimate choice of Stanford?
A: My dad is a Cal grad, and my grandfather and great-grandfather went to Stanford, so it was awesome to go to their alma mater. But for me, what was truly more important was finding a school that fit my personality and had leadership from the coaching standpoint that I felt was going to help make the program consistent and a winner.
Q: You're solidly in the linebacker rotation. Is the amount of playing time you're receiving surprising? What did the coaches indicate in preseason versus what is happening now? Would you have predicted that, right now, you would be fighting for a starting job?
A: When I came in, I could have redshirted for all I cared. I just wanted a chance to compete and improve as a player, and those other things would come in time with hard work and effort. So I had no intentions or ideas of playing. But I've been blessed with the opportunity to go out there when the coaches let me. I've enjoyed and relished every moment out there.
Q: What do you do for fun? Anything off the field that particularly interests you?
A: My number one hobby is hanging out with my teammates. It's an obvious answer, but we have some awesome guys on this team. One of the beauties of going to Stanford is that you meet people who aren't just athletes and aren't just students—they're unique individuals. Making friendships with some of the guys has been terrific, so I spend a lot of time with them. What else do I do? Much to my father's chagrin, I play a lot of video games in my free time.
Q: Any ones in particular?
A: I play a lot of NCAA. I'm a big EA Sports fan, so any sports game, I'll play it. I'm usually pretty good at them, usually dominate. But I also like role-playing games. I'm a bit of a video game nerd at times.
A: I don't think there's necessarily one cause. As a defense, in its entirely, we have to get better. It's the Pac-10, so we have to improve week by week. There's no one answer to the question; we have to get better as a whole. We look forward to proving to everyone else that the Stanford defense is one to be reckoned with.
Q: In kick coverage, you've been excelling. What's your mentality when you go out there on kick coverage as opposed to defense?
A: You're much further away from the returner, and he's definitely not looking for you, so you're just hoping you can get that chance to catch him when he's not looking and make him pay, make the big play and be an impact player for the team.
Q: Last one: have you heard the nickname [The Predator] that fans have given you?
A: I heard it from my dad. He actually sent me a funny photo because he does read The Bootleg occasionally, but yeah, I have.
Q: What do you think of it?
A: I hope to live up to it over my four years here, and hopefully let the rest of the Pac-10 hear it, too.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!