What works, works. "We're doing a lot of good things because we're more experienced."
Spring practice hasn't shown Setencich, whose first two years as DC saw Tech's defense improve to among the best in the country, any reason to believe the Red Raiders won't be at least that good this fall. "We're pretty experienced. With the practices we can get, which were (John) Saldi and (Kellen) Tillman, we're really at skeleton.
"Brock (Stratton) is limited, and so's Chad Hill. So, for what we can do," he said, noting that Stratton's limitations are purely a precaution, "they'll be all right, if we're healthy."
Sylvester Brinkley's showing potential in practice, Setencich said. "In our four linebacker scheme he's clearly a starter. In our three linebacker scheme, he may not be –the competition with John Saldi will be very tough."
Setencich didn't single out a preference among Saldi, Stratton, and Hill, saying what they can do as spring practices continue remains to be seen. The same is true of incoming defenders who will join the squad this fall.
"(Calen) Shearer, freshman redshirt, has done some really nice things," Setencich said. "He's improving more dramatically than I thought." Shearer's potential could come at the strong side or the weak, he said. "I've been playing him all over. He'll probably be in the weak."
Other promising youngsters in the corps included Clifton Eddington and Marcus Bunton, he said. "Eddington and Bunton, from what I'm seeing so far, could end up giving us some reps next season."
"(Jake) Ratliff has shown some things, and Jared Williams," Setencich said. "Another kid named Gill might be able to help us on special teams. With what Ratliff and Jared Williams have shown us, they might have a chance to play." Williams' technique might lack polish, but, according to the coach, "He has a natural athleticism, fluidity, that allows him to rush the passer. In terms of run-stopping, things like that, he may be less advanced, but it appears to me that if he continues to have a good spring and good two-a-days, he might be able to help us on the field, you know, in certain situations."
Setencich brings a wealth of experience to his post as defensive coordinator; he's been reviving college defenses since 1979 at Boise State. In 1980 Boise State picked up the Division I-AA national crown; in 1980 Setencich took the reins as head coach, where he remained until 1986 while racking up a 24-20 record. He left the Broncos to return to California, where he ran the Cal Poly SLO program for seven years, racking up a 41-29-2 record. He also provided Mike Leach with a first position as a college coach there. In 1994, he moved to University of the Pacific and assisted the Tigers to a 6-5 season, the best in 17 years. The following season Setencich moved to Arizona State as linebackers coach; there his influence pushed the 1996 Sun Devil defense to the top spot in the Pac 10 – noteworthy indeed, for a team that had been in the league's cellar the previous year.
He repeated that feat with the California Bears, who finished last in the Pac 10 defensively in 1996. Setencich signed on in 1997; that year the Bear defenders improved to eighth in the conference, and in 1998 they were 3rd. The 1999 squad finished first in the Pac 10 defensively, and the 2000 Bears led the league with sacks at 44 while finishing third.
From that perspective, he analyzed the Red Raiders' major need for improvement Friday thusly: "We need to stop the run, based on last year. We couldn't consistently stop the run in some games, unless we could get into a nine-man front.
"Some teams allow you to get a nine-man front, and we were okay," Setencich said. "We stopped those guys, but a team that doesn't allow you to get into a nine-man front, a single-back offense, our tackles and linebackers have to improve on stopping the run."