UTSA Insider: DC Neal Neathery

With The UTSA Hard Hat Defense is looking to improve on a solid 2015 campaign. InsideRunnerSports talks with Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery about how the defense has looked so far during fall practices.

UTSA Insider Report with Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery:

How have fall practices been going?
“It’s been solid. I like our team. I like the way they interact, I like the way they work. It’s going well.“

You scrimmaged Monday, how did it go?
“It was okay. We got done what we needed to get done and everybody stayed healthy.”

Is the offense’s new up-tempo look helping you prepare for the season?
“Absolutely. That’s always been a disadvantage. I like time of possession. It didn’t mind it but when we got to that first fast game, it was a little tough. So it’s helping us. They’re doing it fast. You’ve got to get lined up and you have to get lined up in a hurry. It is difficult.”

What position do you feel strong at?
“I think our Safeties look really good, and we’re deep. We’re good at Safety. That might be our best, deepest place. If we can get our front 11 the way I like it, I think we’ll have a really good crew there. That’s going to be a work in progress as we go through the season. Hopefully we can stay healthy, I think we have a good first group.”

How’s the defensive line developing?
“We’re getting there. We’ve had some guys dinged up a little bit, nothing catastrophic. So we haven’t had some of those guys we need to be training in there. We’re going to be young, we’re going to make more mistakes. We were just so experienced and were really smart. These guys just don’t have that much experience right now. I think they’ll be more mistakes up front. I do like our first group a lot and our second group is developing.”

How can the defense increase turnovers?
“It’s all about production. Somebody has to tackle them or they score touchdowns. Triston (Wade) was a lot of our production in every area. So somebody has to make those plays. I feel good about what we have. We’ve lost some good ones but I think we have some good kids that you don’t know about yet but you will.”

Who do you expect to be leaders on the defense?
“Drew, Mo, and Bennett. Egg is younger but he has some leadership too. We’ve actually have a good senior crew. Those guys have a lot of ball under their belts and have produced for us well.”

What can you say about the loss of Justin Todd?
“I feel awful for him. Usually as a coach you feel sorry for yourself first. But we just felt awful for him. .It hurts us that we don’t have that spot that we’re developing right now but just mostly for him, I feel terrible. So we’re going to keep him involved, he wants to be involved. He’ll travel, he’ll be on the sidelines, will still be on scholarship, we’ll take care of him.”

How is the Mike LB position looking?
“Drew (Douglas) is very steady. I think he’s a little better than he was a year ago. He’s playing well and is healthy. Dalton (Miller) is really developing. Steve Holman is coming along. He’s probably the next guy in the mix there. We’re a little bit thin but the guys. Dalton is doing a good. He’s done well, we put him there in the spring. He’s still developing but I think he’s a real viable option for us there.”

Marcos Curry and La’kel Bass are battling at the Hawk LB spot. How’s that going?
“They came out of the spring really close. La’Kel has had a little nagging injury so that’s set him back a little bit. I’m hoping La’Kel can get healthy and throw his hat back in the ring but right now Marcos would clearly be the starter. Lakel really has a good upside. He’s a smart football player, great kid. He’s doing real well too. I think we’ve got a good crew, we’re just not as deep. We lost Justin, we lost Tank last Spring, and we missed in our recruiting. We had three we wanted. I think it’s the most difficult to recruit. In today’s game what you want there is a Safety. It’s hard to find that or predict what they’re going to grow into. It’s tough. They have to be really bright, you just can’t throw anybody in there. You’ve got to do a lot of thinking to be involved in the front and the back. I think it is the toughest position. We had three really good ones on the table all the way to the end and lost them to schools we’ve beat before..”

Is this the fastest defense you’ve had?
“Yeah, we are faster. Overall, we’re a little bit longer too.”

Drew Douglas is one of your top defenders, how does he look?
“He’s a little leaner, faster, and harder to block. He’s just playing really faster. He’s always been really smart and that continues. He’s been a really good leader and everything you expect from a leader.”

How’s Dawg Safety Michael Egwuagu looked?
“It’s been a good progression for him. We had a little hiccup at the beginning of last year but other than that he’s been getting better and better. He’s been really good. I like his progress, I like how he’s working and I think he’ll do really well.”

How’s the Safety group looking?
“Mauricio is the rock back there. I think Egg is going to be good for us. Behind the those guys I really like Duke Wheeler and Chase is finally healthily. He’s had a rough go about it since last fall. I like what we’re seeing from Nate Gaines. Everybody is asks what’s going to happen after Triston (Wade), Nate has the skillset. He’s working hard and doing well. Behind him, Chavez has really stepped up his game. We’ve had a few kids make the jump. Chavez is one of those.”

Have you gotten a look at Safety Austin Jupe?
“Yeah a little bit, he’s really not in the mix right now. We’ve gotten a look at him but he’s not there yet.”

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