Sizing Up The Hard Hat Defense

UTSA has been using a new nickel coverage scheme this spring. The architect of the Hard Hat D, Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery, talks scheme and development during this spring.

UTSA Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery

Are you pleased with the development this spring?
“We're pleased with the progress, getting better every day. We have a lot of young guys and lots of new guys so it's a lot different from day one to now.”

Are you running a new nickel scheme where you drop to three-down linemen?
“Sort of, kind of. We're doing that a little bit different than how we did it last year. We dropped a little bit out of four down (lineman) so we're doing a little bit more of that. We're just playing around (with different schemes), that's what spring is for, to try and get some things how we want them best. We spend a lot of time in February looking at new wrinkles we want to try in the spring so that's one of the things we're looking at.”

How difficult has it been this spring having some key contributors not available?
“You're getting reps with guys you know who are going to need them. It's a long season, it's not if they get hurt, it's when. You have to get a lot of people ready to make it through. Twelve games is a long time, it's a very physical game so you have to have a lot of people ready. It's a negative that some aren't out there getting to play but the positive side is that someone else is getting a lot of reps.”

How are Nate Gaines and Mauricio Sanchez playing at the back safety positions?
“We're exciting about thew. We've been excited about Nate since we recruited him. If you were ranking our class then, he was on the high end. We were really excited about him. He has a great future in front of him, he's getting better everyday. Mo has a ton of downs under his belt. The thing with him is that he's been healthy for a good stretch here. And he's playing extremely well. He's been a good leader for us. I'm really liked those two in the back.”

What's it like having so many young players?
“This is the first time we've totally had that cycle. We've got a handful of older guys, a handful of younger guys, and your older guys are pulling the younger guys along. They've been there and can help them through it.”

How have the linebackers developed this spring?
“I'm pleased with all four of those kids. It's been a really good camp. Drew (Douglas) has a lot of game experience and has been a good player for us and continues to get better. He's a guy just just know what you're going to get. Marcos (Curry) has had a really good camp. We knew we needed someone to step up and he's stepped, he's playing really, really well. He has some confidence about him now and he's just a different player than he was his first two years. Dalton (Miller) has been outstanding. I'm really, really pleased with his spring. He's taken a big jump. With Lakel (Bass) it's hard for those junior college guys that first semester. The learning curve is tough and they usually hit a wall but he's pressed through that. He's doing as well as or better than any juinor college guy we've had in the spring. It's hard, there's a lot of their plate. He's fought through it and continues to get better. With Drew, we knew what we had. But with those other three, I've been very pleased. I feel very good at that position.”

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