Unplugged: Duke Thomas at Big 12 Media Days

Longhorns senior DB Duke Thomas is the front-runner to take over for current Detroit Lions rookie DB Quandre Diggs as the most outspoken guy on the team.

He's not afraid to speak his mind, and understands the urgency this team needs to play with this season, especially given its his last go-around before he takes a shot at the NFL.

Here's a transcript of my 20+ minutes with Duke and a few other reporters from Tuesday:

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On how hard the team is working this offseason:

“We are working hard and understand that the hard work is going to pay off by the end of the season.”

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On Charlie Strong saying that 6-7 is not good enough and that it will never happen again at UT:

“Coach Strong hit it right on the head. I’m pretty sure that anybody that goes 6-7 isn’t going to be happy.”

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Why is this season going to be different than last season?

“This year is going to be different because how the offseason is this year, the team chemistry. The extra work we are putting in this year. I’ve never been around a team that is so eager to learn things this offseason. I’ve got freshmen and sophomores hitting me up, ‘Hey when can we get in the film room?’ ‘Hey, when are you free.’ Things like that are going to set us apart. I haven’t experienced that before.”

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On everybody needing to step their game up and not just the QB play:

“It’s a team effort. You can’t blame one position. You can’t blame one play. It’s several things. There are 22 people playing at one time. There’s no way you can point the finger at one guy.”

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What has he seen from Tyrone and Jerrod this offseason?

“I see great competitors. Great athletes going day in, day out. They are learning from each other and are fighting for their job.”

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How is Tank Jackson looking?

“Tank is looking good. He’s really been impressing me, mostly on our track days. Tank is a big guy. Him getting out there and getting after it is a feat for being 300 pounds. His work ethic and his presence is great.”

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You got left off the preseason “Watch List.” Is stuff like that motivating to you?

“I don’t pay any attention to any of that. It’s nothing personal. I know where I am and I know where I’m going to be. The season dictates that award anyway.”

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Do you feel like you are a No. 1 corner in this league?

“I am definitely confident enough to be a No. 1 corner. I may not have shown it yet. I have to complete and finish more plays. Football, a lot of these balls are 50-50. Fundamentals and technique.”

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What are you seeing from these young corners?

“They are all working very hard. They are all students of the game. They really want to get in the playbook. Like I said, they are all physically ready to get out there. It’s just a matter of them learning the playbook.”

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You feel like this is a ticked off team, tired of not getting the results Texas is used to?

“Everyone came here for the big games, the championships. That’s what we are fighting for.”

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What has to change?

“It’s the work ethic. The team chemistry, buying into the program, and playing for your coach. You know what you are getting into when you come to Texas. You have a responsibility to uphold, we have a standard. We haven’t been reaching that standard. That’s what we are working towards.”

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How is Dylan looking to you right now?

Dylan Haines is working hard. He’s shown a lot of explosiveness this offseason. It’s really impressive. It doesn’t surprise me at all. When you know what you are doing and you study the playbook, it puts you in a position to make plays. That’s what elevated his game.”

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Will Dylan play better now that he’s No. 14 and not No. 44?

“Yeah man that No. 44 was terrible. My gosh. We told him he was getting all the 1-on-1 routes with that number. Change a number and maybe you can chill every now and then.”

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Does that UCLA game stand out in your mind and give you nightmares?

“You win some, you lose some. I should have not let that happen. I know, as a player, I am better than that. I look back at that experience and I know what I did wrong. It doesn’t bother me to talk about it.

“It was really a dumb play by me. The coverage didn’t call for me to take that route. I knew this QB right here, the second-string quarterback, I knew he wasn’t going to try to take a shot at me down the field. I got too greedy. That’s where I learned I have to play within the defense. I can’t get too greedy. That’s what I tell the guys now: Don’t get too greedy.”

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How many times have you seen the play?

“I watched it after the game but haven’t seen it since.”

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Do you feel like everyone on this team wants to be a part of this program? Are you guys finished with weeding out the players that don’t have respect for the program?

“Oh yeah we are passed that. We are at the point where we are just trying to grow. It is very evident that we are all on the same page.”

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What are you seeing from the younger wide receivers?

“DeAndre [McNeal] is a big, physical wide receiver. I can see him manhandling DBs. Little Ryan [Newsome] is so fast. John [Burt] is a mismatch and he knows how to get the ball at its highest points.”

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Have you noticed a different Daje lately?

“Oh that’s my boy. Daje has definitely had his mishaps but he is definitely changing. He has grown and become more of a leader. He and Marcus are making things happen. Daje is crazy explosive. He’ll be out there jogging then give you a 1-2 shake and be gone.”

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The young guys don’t lack confidence. You see it on social media. Are you seeing that as well?

“I don’t know much about their social media handles, but meeting them you can see they are confident. I told them that’s how they are supposed to be. You were the man at your high school. There’s no reason why that should change. Come here with the same chip on your shoulder and be great.”

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How has Malik Jefferson looked?

“Malik has taken a leadership roll with the freshmen guys. I like having him being a leader. He’s easy to consult with. When I have a message I need to get to the freshmen I can tell Malik and make sure that it will get to them.”

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What nicknames do you have for the DBs?

Holton Hill came in trying to think he was the man, calling himself ‘Hollywood.’ I call him Holton. I just knocked it out the way. DeShon Elliott, I call him ‘Stiff Hips Elliott.” PJ is “Pooky Locky.” Davante is quite. It’s hard to make fun of him. I call him ‘Mykkele.’ He reminds me of Mykkele [Thompson] a lot.’ Kris Boyd, that boy there, I like him a lot. He’s one of the boys that’s really been after it. I call him ‘KB.’ I didn’t give him a bad nickname yet. They just call me Duke.”

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How’d Elliott get that nickname?

“We were in yoga one time and I saw him struggling to get this pose and I was like, ‘OK stiff hips. That’s what I call him every time I see him.”

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