Q: Your mom submitted a question.
A: Oh God.
Q: Yup. You know what, let's start off with that one. Where have you grown as a cornerback? Where do your strengths lay? What more do you have to improve upon?
A: The positives, where I've grown, have been discipline and eyes. Those are the most important and hardest things to gain as a young defensive back. You really want to be staring at the quarterback, the wideouts, you want to see the whole picture, and it becomes too much. As you get older, you learn that it's just going to get you in trouble. That's been the best thing. As for what I have to work on still, it'd be my aggressiveness, shedding blocks and helping out in the run. I don't think I have as much to work on in pass coverage. I also need to work on tackling. I need to get my feet under me—I end up being more erratic and running downhill and diving.
Q: Speaking of running, you ran track.
A: Way back in the day, that's a long time ago.
Q: There are a lot of guys who are former track athletes on the team. Where do you stack up?
A: I've actually gotten slower over the years. I used to be in the top four. Now, I don't even know. At worst, top 15, at best, top 10.
Q: Who is the fastest?
A: There are a lot of guys who are right around the same area. Are you looking at 40s?
Q: Or game speed, either one.
A: Obviously, [Chris] Owusu jumps out, Delano [Howell] jumps out. Harold Bernard is really explosive and real fast. Quinn Evans and [Richard] Sherman are real fast, too. We have some quick guys. They're deceiving— [Mark] Mueller is fast, too. Some guys are long striders versus the more explosive guys, like Delano or Mike T[homas].
Q: Speaking of all of these guys in the defensive backfield, what has it been like to play with a heavy rotation? You have close to a dozen guys playing back there. What's it been like to play with so many people?
A: It's been awesome. We have a lot of depth, and in the past we haven't had as much. It helps out because pretty much all the DBs play a lot of special teams. We probably have eight DBs on the kickoff team alone, and then on punt return and kick return, and so on. So it helps out, it gives guys breathers. Plus, if a guy is not playing well, or his head is messed up that game, we have other guys who can step in and give him a blow. There have been some years when it's been like, "Wow, what happens if this guy goes down? We're going to be in trouble." That's versus now, where we roll them in and roll them out. That's good, I like that, and it allows you to be confident in the younger guys as well. It prepares them for the future.
Q: You came in before Coach Harbaugh and much of the staff. How has the transition been? What's been different from the old regime and the new regime? Where's the marked change? And on a personal level, what did you have to do to fit into newer plans?
A: It's definitely been a way better transition and really easy. In the past, it was a little bit hard, there were a lot of coaching issues, and now those really don't exist. We spend most of our time with Coach Lynn and Coach White, and they're really cool guys off the field, as well as great coaches. They really match the defensive backfield mentality. You don't see them going all crazy and wild. Every so often they have to, but they definitely fit us. As for the transition in general, it's been easier. I've had plenty of coaches throughout my whole career, even in high school, and there's been a lot of turnover. Now, it's the second year with Coach Lynn, the same defensive coordinator, and it's like a Godsend. We can move on, we don't need to reinstall a lot of stuff. We know what the coaches are going to be like, what the players are going to be like, so it's really just bringing in new faces.
Q: You're one of the more veteran presences on the team. You have four games left against four tough opponents. Is there a sense of urgency, about wanting to get to that bowl and knock off some of these big teams?
A: Definitely. We've been saying that there's a sense of urgency all year, but now it's the last four games, and there's red blinking lights and it's coming down to the end. I think the position that we're in now—it couldn't be better. We have possibly the four best teams left in the Pac-10, and we get to play them. And if we win? We get to reap the rewards of a bowl game as well as possibly some national rankings. Plus, we'll get some notoriety. I'd rather this than any other way, like playing them earlier in the season and winding down, especially in my last year.
Q: What are the future plans?
A: With me?
A: (Laughing) I have no idea. I'm thinking weekly. There's no future plans. It's Oregon, that's it.
Q: In terms of your playing style and the schemes that are being used, what do you prefer? Would you rather line up 10-15 yards off the line, or pressed up on your man? Where do you feel most comfortable?
A: Some games early in the season we were doing a lot of zone blitzes, and we were playing a lot of off-coverage, about nine yards off. Personally, I'd rather play press, but it really depends on the scheme. If you have a good quarterback, they're sometimes able to pick that apart, but we have the DBs and the skills to press any team, that's not what I'm worried about. It's whether or not we can fit into the schemes. Sometimes, they're more complicated week-to-week. For example, Arizona State was really simple. We played a lot of Cover Four, a lot of Cover Two, that's it. Some other weeks, we were doing a lot more elaborate zone blitzes, where people could get confused and it caused problems. But each week, the coaches prepare us. Each game plan, on paper, looks real good. The coaches here are great, but me personally, I'd rather be pressing, because it takes out the thinking. You have this guy, and that's it.
Q: What do you find has made you more effective? The defense in general?
A: From a scheme standpoint?
Q: From a scheme standpoint, or different personnel combinations. When have you felt that the defense was at its height? Or has it not yet reached its height?
A: It hasn't. I think because each week you're trying to get better. There's always something. We've had a couple of better games, and we've had a couple bad games. In general, the thing we need to work on as a defensive backfield is tackling. Everything else will fall into place. We work hard, it's really just been tackling. Last game we tackled real well, and it showed. Against UCLA, we tackled real well. And then there's been some games where we haven't, especially on the edge, and we can't do that because we have to be there to save the people up front, and we have to save our own butts, so if you get exposed outside or in the defensive backfield, it's going to be bad.
Q: You have a lot of young players on defense. Has there been anyone in particular that has stood out to you? As one of the veteran players, have you found yourself taking on a mentoring role?
A: I've been in that mentorship role pretty much all summer, teaching them the nuances of the defense, and teaching them the cornerback position. They're always looking to learn, which is real good—we have a lot of positive young guys who are eager to get in there. I can't say that's always been there. As older guys—Bo [McNally] and me—they look to us, and ask us questions all the time, and we're willing to help them out at any point. As for guys that are sticking out, to be honest, they all stick out. They all have their better attributes. For example, Johnson Bademosi. That guy can cover. But the thing is, you have to have him focus on one thing. Sometimes his spectrum gets too broad. Quinn is one of those guys who is hard-nosed and doesn't really care. He plays solid. He reminds me of how I play—overall, just good. I think he's going to be real good, though, because he's a better tackler already. He had good defensive coaches in high school. Obviously, Delano is one of those hard-nosed kids who will knock anyone out, which is just awesome to see. Terrence Brown—you guys don't see much of him—he's another one of those. He's a bit lighter, so he can't bring it as much as Delano, but he's a hard-nosed guy who can cover. Hopefully he'll get a little bit of weight on him in the next couple of years. But in general, I think they have some really good things to look forward to in the future.
Q: Away from football, off the field, what are you doing for fun?
A: They call me "grandpa." I don't really do too much. I go back home and hang out and watch TV. I have a few favorite shows that I enjoy.
Q: Which ones?
A: Glee. Smallville. I watch a lot of cartoons. Whenever I get time off from football, I put my legs up and hang out. I've had that mentality since I've been there. When I'm done with football, that's when I can do everything else. It's hard to balance academics and athletics. You really need to focus on just those two things.
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