Q&A: J.J. Gaines

Texas Tech safety J.J. Gaines was in the midst of a breakout season in 2013 before a shoulder injury forced him to miss the second half of the year. RaiderPower.com interviewed the junior on Sunday during media day about where he is health-wise, his role as a leader of a young, unproven secondary and much more.

RP: What's your mindset going in to fall camp, where you're at?

Gaines: Well, you know I'm recovering from shoulder surgery. I've just been rehabbing and I feel pretty good. The doctors are releasing me to be back on the field with my teammates so it's just a good feeling. I'm trying to keep my shoulder strong so it can last throughout the season.

RP: You said the doctors are releasing you. When are you expecting that?

Gaines: No, they already released me.

RP: They did. When was that?

Gaines: Back in the spring, right after spring camp.

RP: Coach Wally said you probably could have gone in the spring game, but they were holding you out as a precaution. So you feel like you will be able to start practicing contact and all that, full bore?

Gaines: I'm doing whatever the team does. Whenever they go full-contact, I go full-contact. I'm going to be wearing a shoulder brace for a precaution, but other than that I'm full go, 100 percent.

RP: Have you noticed a big difference with your movement, I know it's your shoulder, but do you feel it when you're out there playing?

Gaines: Nah, rehab makes it normal so the more I rehab the more normal it feels and it feels normal right now and I'm thankful for that.

RP: So in the weight room and everything, you feel you have the strength back up to where it was?

Gaines: I actually feel like I'm a little stronger than I was before because I came back in the summer working out with the team I've been lifting more than I was in the past.

RP: How anxious are you, obviously, because you had a great start last season and then to have to sit on the sideline for every game, just talk about that.

Gaines: Yeah, it really hurt not being out there with my teammates and what not. It's been a long time and I'm just ready to get back out there with my brothers. One team, one dream; just fight for the goal.

RP: What does this secondary look like? To me, it seems everybody has a question about it. You showed a lot early and then got hurt. Justis [Nelson] came on late and showed a lot of promise. A couple other guys showed promise, but where is this secondary right now, where is your confidence level?

Gaines: We're pretty confident right now. We have Keenon Ward on the other side, Justis at one corner and they have experience and in the spring they played really good ball. We're just trying to get all of us on the field to put it all together to see what we'll look like as a unit.

RP: Obviously in the Big 12 you're going to face a lot of weapons. What do you think is the one thing you have to do as a unit to have a successful season?

Gaines: We got to get turnovers, we got to get the ball back to the offense and let them run up the score on teams. We know if we take care of our job and they take of their job, we'll be hard to beat.

RP:I know you can't go in to detail but are the coaches doing anything different schematically? Are they putting in a lot of new stuff or is it mostly the same as last year?

Gaines: I mean it's the same, but we're adding new stuff based on the strengths of the players. It's their second year here and that's a good thing. They know how we play; our strengths and our weaknesses so we are installing due to our strengths.

RP: What are your strengths as a player in your opinion?

Gaines: Coverage, I love man coverage. I'm just up for the challenge. Anybody, anytime. I'm just ready.

RP: Anything else you would like to add about the team or the upcoming season? Is there anything I'm missing?

Gaines: I don't want to talk too much about it until we get out there on the field for fall camp and what not, but coming from the summer everybody was working hard, everybody was grinding. We're putting in the work, so we're just going to see what the results are like here in camp.

RP: I have one more question. One of the themes is having a defensive coordinator [Matt Wallerstedt] back two years in a row. How has that been? Is that huge?

Gaines: Yeah, that's a really big deal. Since I have been here there has been a new defensive coordinator every year. With coach coming back with some of the same players it's kind of an advantage rather than a disadvantage, so we're excited to see the same faces two years in a row. I have never had that here so It's exciting and we're ready to go.

RP: I lied, one more. The cornerbacks. A lot of people are wondering who that second and then third and fourth cornerbacks are going to be. How have they looked so far?

Gaines: In 7 on 7 all the freshmen were doing good; Jah'Shawn Johnson, Tevin [Madison], everybody is just doing good, so we have to see when we put the pads on because 7 on 7 is different. I mean whoever step up, [La'Darius] Newbold, Nigel [Bethel] that's just who it going to be and we're just going to ride.

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