Fall Practice - Day 1: Darnell talks defense

Texas A&M defensive coordinator discussed the 2007 defense for the first time on Monday after practice. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp had a few minutes to chat with Darnell for a quick Q&A session.

Q: Can you talk about the defense in 2006 and how effective you were at stopping opponents on third down?
Darnell: We didn't blitz our linebackers a lot (in 2006). Paul McGuire would always tell me, ‘you're last in the league in sacks, last in the league in pressures but you lead the nation in third down conversions. How do you do that?' And I said, ‘you know, I'm not real sure, Paul, but right now we're going to stay with that formula.' But we didn't blitz, mostly we kept the ball contained and didn't really blitz last year.

Q: Do you plan to use the blitz more in 2007?
Darnell: Some, yeah. The whole concept of using 5 DB's is you can use (the blitz) from anywhere, whether it's linebacker, safety or corners. I think all defenses have a threat of a strong safety blitz, but I think with five DB's, the way we do, you have to at least have a threat of all five DB's coming at you.

Q: How do you make such effective adjustments at halftime?
Darnell: I just think it's interesting because we were simple. I think most offenses go through their repertoire, in the first half. Yeah we made a couple of changes, but it wasn't near as dramatic as it appeared. The biggest thing was they shot all their bullets and we're sitting there and know what they are now and we knew what to do.

Q: Can you not make those types of adjustments based on the game film that you watch before the game?
Darnell: I'll give you an example, Nebraska scripts their first 36 plays, so all the shifting and all of that, it's choreographed. Once they go through that repertoire, they go through it again and picking out the things that worked or seeing what pictures they saw that they liked and they come back to that. That's pretty common. If you don't do something to disrupt that flow when they're doing that script, then they get ahead.

Nebraska made a fourth and four and Oklahoma made a fourth and four or fourth and five on the first drive. Twice we had them in what you'd consider a stop and we didn't get it. Getting off the field quicker in the early parts of the game, that's got to be one of our next goals.

Other quotables from the defense

Martellus Bennett on linebacker Anthony Lewis
Between him and Misi (Tupe), they're probably the hardest hitters on defense. Anytime Anthony gets a chance to put it on you, he's going to bring the wood. He has a chance to be a big play linebacker, the main thing he's trying to work on is his flexibility and coverage.

Bennett on linebacker Matt Featherston
Featherston is a workout freak. He got a lot faster and stronger and that made him a lot better as far as coverage and assignments. Now that he knows what to do, it's just a matter of seeing him making the plays

Chris Harrington on returning to practice for the first time in eight months
I was a little bit rusty. It's been about 8 months since I've taken a snap, but once I got out there, it was kind of like riding a bike. Looking over and having (Red Bryant) next to me was good. We were going through the same thing, being a little rusty, but we fought through it and pushed each other. All the way through rehab we were there together, so it was good to be back on the field together.

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