Interview: Reese talks about his D

<I>IT</I> caught up with UT D-coordinator <B>Carl Reese</B> for a post-practice conversation Friday at a soggy Denius Fields. Reese, instrumental in transforming the Texas defense from one of the worst in the country to one of the best in his four-plus years on the Forty Acres, provided his thoughts on the Horns' first three spring practices and what that portends for the fall.

IT: Talk about the situation at linebacker.

Reese: Of course, the guy that's really gotta step up with leadership and take over is Derrick Johnson. Derrick Johnson was a great freshman for us, got in on a lot of tackles, so he's got to learn the part of 'Now I am the guy and I've gotta have leadership' and he's doing that. I've really been pleased with his first few days of practice. His work ethic is better than it was as a freshman and his leadership is starting to show up. We all know he's a great football player athletically but he's gotta be our leader. He's the guy I'm really pushing because he's got a fan club so he better go out there and start leading. I expect some big things out of Derrick. And then Reed Boyd's done a good job. Reed's been here forever and he's played all positions at linebacker and he's had a good spring so far and he's little older and he's a natural leader and we keep pushing him to see how he does at the Mike (MLB). So we've got Derrick at the Will, Reed Boyd at the Mike and at the Sam (we've got) Lee Jackson. Lee Jackson of course was a lot like Derrick when he was young. Shoot, he was a household name. Now he's been injured and had a lot of hard luck but he's been healthy for three days and he competes and I'm looking for big things out of him. And if all three of those kids start, we're really going to be faster than we were a year ago at linebacker, which is good.

IT: What about the depth behind those three guys?

Reese: The depth right now if we started tomorrow, probably at the Will linebacker we'd have Aurmon Satchell behind D.J. Behind Reed Boyd we'd have Eric Hall. Eric Hall was a little experiment moving from end to linebacker during bowl time and he's shown some signs and he's got good speed and quickness. And the back-up Sam right now is Braden Johnson. These kids have really got to fight and show us something because we recruited some kids we think we can put in place . . . so we're going to have some young linebackers who are wandering the ol' high school halls right now that will come in and give us some depth. But I'm rooting for those starting guys and the back-ups to fight and scratch and show us what they've got and make it hard for a freshman to come in and play because all of (the veterans) have talent and they can run and I think we're quicker as a group.

IT: You used quite a bit of four linebacker sets during the middle of last season. Is that something that you'll use again this year or is the personnel grouping so different this year that you won't use it?

Reese: It's different but we're going to look at it. We always try to match what an offense is doing and those teams that spread you out, that 3-4 defense is pretty good against that. It matches it pretty good. We'll probably have to look at our freshmen because right now we don't have the depth to do that and one of the reasons we went to it last year was because Derrick was such a good young freshman that he was the fourth linebacker and we had three seniors with him so it was a natural fit. So if we can get the same type of thing to come along, we would need that defense in some of the games.

IT: What are you seeing from your young safeties?

Reese: We're looking for the same thing we had a year ago. We had Ahmad Brooks who started 13 games as a corner and then we had (Nathan) Vasher who is really a corner, so we had four corners in the game and that's what we're trying to do (this year). At that (strong) safety position, we've really got three corners working one side. We've got Vasher playing some corner and a little safety and those other two young corners (Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff) are playing safety and that's what we're working toward. We have Rufus Harris and Kendal Briles at the free safety. Rufus is a little bit but Briles is probably not a typical corner type. He's more of a safety type. We're wanting to put the best four football players on the field no matter whether they're corners or safeties and I think that will help us and make us better.

IT: How has the move to corner of Anthony Johnson looked?

Reese: I think good. I think he looks the part. I came out here and watched him practice and I said, 'Who's that 23?' He caught our eye as the scout team running back. He has good, quick feet and hips and when I see that in him I think he is a corner. He's a physical, good-looking guy. He's a big corner so I hope he comes through. I think he's a good experiment for us.

IT: At defensive end, what has Austin Sendlein showed you so far and is O.J. McClintock back to where you believe he can be a contributor like he was last spring?

Reese: O.J. had a good practice today. He's solid, he's firm against the run and he's got a natural strike about him. That's why we put him at end, but his (problem) has been a broken hand, a pulled hamstring. He's a little bit like Lee Jackson, he's just never had enough health to get in there and fight and get the job. Sendlein's probably been the most pleasant surprise (of spring so far). He's quicker. He trained hard in the off-season and he's got a good, quick first step and I can see us getting some work out of the ol' boy. He's probably about 255-260, so he's big enough and I've been really pleased. Just like after today's practice, he'll go in and ride the bike, so he's into this personal training. I can see a difference in him in the way he practices and the way he goes so if keeps it up, he's going to be a guy that gives us some depth at end. I think he wants to be an end and he's doing all this so he doesn't get fat and slow and (has to play) tackle.

IT: Are you working more zone this spring?

Reese: Yeah, as a change-up. We want to be a man football team against the run but zone is a change-up that helped us last year to be better and we're going to continue to work along those lines because last year when we strictly went zone sometimes it got us out of some ballgames, so I think that's always going to be a part of our deal.

IT: With Tubbs out earlier this week, what have the other tackles shown you?

Reese: I think (Adam) Doiron and (Stevie) Lee both look better and now Lee has been healthy for three practices. He's got to stay healthy and keep coming and Doiron has got to keep coming. Tubbs has been out -- his father had some health issues -- but now he's back and practiced today so those three kids and even ol' Miguel McKay did some things today. What happens sometimes, when you're here forever like Miguel McKay at a position the ol' light comes on. I thought we got a great season out of Jermain Anderson (last year). Kalen gets hurt and really after the OU game played half the season and Jermain Anderson was good enough because of experience to help us play pretty good football and I hope we get that out of Miguel. And again, (the tackles) better get with it because those young kids coming in are going to get a real shot to help us and give us some back-up.


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