Spring Refresher w/ LB/DE Thomas Keiser [#94]

On a sunny, but chilly Wednesday afternoon, we caught up with redshirt junior Cardinal linebacker Thomas Keiser after practice to learn how spring ball has been shaping up and to see how "94 has adjusted to his critical new role in the 3-4 defense.

"Spring Refresher" with LB/DE Thomas Keiser [#94]

The Bootleg's "Emeritus" managed to break free from the spirited grasp of his 2 1/2-year-old son Logan and caught up with standout junior "4-3 defensive end"-turned-"3-4 linebacker"  Thomas Keiser after practice Wednesday.

One of the top defensive weapons for Stanford during the 2009 season, the Wexford, Pennsylvania product is a key figure in the Cardinal's transition to a "3-4" defense under first-year defensive coordinator & linebackers coach Vic Fangio.

On-Field, Post-Practice Interview on April 14, 2010

The Bootleg: We are here with Tom Keiser, redshirt junior linebacker/defensive end. Tom, how would you describe the "vibe" surrounding the team coming into the 2010 season as you prepare for the annual Red & White game this Saturday.

Tom Keiser: Yeah, we are really excited. This spring has been an intense one, it has been very physical, we have been pushing each other, offense and defense, getting a loy of plays in, getting lots of reps. I think we are improving as a defense and as a team - both sides of the ball are getting better.

TB: How is the team's leadership shaping up, with Clint Snyder, Bo McNally, Ekom Udofia, Erik Lorig and all of those veteran guys graduating? Who are emerging as leaders on the 2010 defense?

TK: Sure, those are guys that we miss. We have guys stepping up at all the positions. Bulcke (Brian Bulcke) and Fua (Sione Fua) as fifth-year seniors are really stepping up. Then within the position groups, the linebackers and defensive backs are trying to lead each other, motivate each and help each other along the way. 

TB: Last year the team's "core character" was ball-control with Toby Gerhart running the ball, do you sense a need for more balance this year with the defense taking on a more heightened role? 

TK: Yes. The defense was disappointed that we didn't have a bigger role in helping the team last year. We just didn't do as well as we wanted to and we feel this year as an opportunity to do that.We are improving and we are looking forward to the challenge.

TB: You have new coaches across the board on defense. What have that meant in terms of teaching style, terminology, and new personalities?

TK: Yes, it is definitely different. I am not sure, but it seems like the terminology is more of an NFL-type, with Coach Fangio being more of an NFL coach, coming from the Baltimore Ravens. The different position groups, as far as the front eight, there has definitely been a difference as far as defensive line technique and also the backers, changing up their technique as well. 

TB: You have long had a "line mentality", but now you and Chase Thomas are being asked to take on more of a hybrid role. How do you feel about the "identity" of being a hybrid linebacker versus a true down lineman?

TK: You know, I have played defensive end my entire college career and it is something I have enjoyed, but when this opportunity came about with the 3-4 and I had the chance to play outside linebacker, I was excited about it, excited to take on that challenge. It is like half-defensive end and then I get to do a little something different, "drop" a little more than I usually do. I guess it has been eight practices now and I have enjoyed it and had a rerally fun time. I am feel like I am progressing and getting better and I am excited to see where it will lead.  

TB: From my eye, you look a little bit leaner, is that the case?

TK: Yes, I am a little lighter.

TB: Has that been a deliberate goal within your off-season stength and conditioning program?

TK: I just leaned down, dropped about five pounds, didn't think I needed it. Then we will see after spring, where I am supposed to be.

TB: From what you have experienced, how would you summarize the key differences in the new defensive philosphy?

 If there is one thing I have heard througout this spring it has been "Be the hammer, not the nail!" That is the idea we are trying to instill in our defense.

TB: Would that be a legitimate criticism of last year's defensive unit? It didn't seem like we were being put on our heels very often?

TK: No, it is really more about our goals this year than any negative about last year. We just want to make it more of a conscious emphasis.

TB: Is there any palpable difference in how the team is preparing, coming off of a bowl season this time versus previous springs? Is there now a higher expectation level, are the goals clearly different?

TK: Yes, the goals are definitely different. Last year was just "Let's try to get to a bowl" and now this year, we say "We made it to a bowl, but we didn't win". We are trying to put our position where we can go out and have an excellent season and then finish it. As great as last season was, we didn't finish it with the right tone and we are trying to fix that right now. 

TB: That isn't just "PR"? You and your Cardinal teammates actually share that strong conviction? 

TK: YES! (Smiling)

TB: Which team are you on for Saturday's spring game?

TK: I'm on the "White" team.

TB: Has there been much intersquad "jawing" going on yet?

TK: Oh yeah, lots of talking. We are pretty excited and it's definitely going to be a good competition.

TB: Is the talent equally distributed after the draft?

TK: The "White" team definitely doesn't think so, so we are excitied about that! (Laughing). No, there are really good players on both sides. It should be a really good game! 

TB: Good luck on Saturday. Stay healthy and don't hurt anyone.... too badly!

TK: Thanks, will do.

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