Spring Preview: Abbott Interview

We talked with Andrew Abbott about switching to strong safety, whether he'll still play the nickel, and what he thinks about playing strong safety in the new Steelers-style defense...

Q: Obviously, you've had the position change. How different are you expecting it to be over at safety?

A: To be honest with you, from the vantage point of where I'm coming from on the field, that part will be different I believe, but mentally, I don't think it'll be that big of a change. It's kind of like that nickel spot I played. And I've felt like I've had a good grasp over the whole secondary and every position in the secondary for the years I've been playing, so I don't think the transition will be too insane. It's just getting down the footwork side of things, and the mental aspect. But I don't think it'll be a big change. I'm looking forward to it.

Q: Do you know if it's going to be strong or free?

A: I'll be the strong safety.

Q: Do you feel comfortable playing that close to the line, where you're probably going to have a big role in run support?

A: Yeah, I feel very comfortable. I guess just being able to kind of free up my eyes and be more of a zone defender where I can play to my strength and use my knowledge of the game and my ability to see things. Like you said, it's going to be closer to the box, but I'm still going to be heavy in the pass game. It's just going to be fun to get that extra hat in the box, just coming down and getting inside of the defense and things like that. It's a position that is just playing football, to be honest with you. I mean, you've got to have discipline with your eyes and things like that, but once the ball snaps, it's just playing football. It's not really…I mean, whereas corner, it's always man to man, your eyes are always on your man. Sometimes with different coverages you can be doing different things, sometimes you might not always have a man. You might have a zone, so it's definitely going to be fun.

Q: Maybe too early to say, but do you know yet if you're going to slide to the nickel when you're in nickel?

A: As of now, I honestly don't know. I would think with the guys we have now in spring, I think I'd slide down and play nickel. But who knows, maybe another guy, a young guy, may emerge, or somebody else may come down and play the nickel. But I think as of now I will come down and play the nickel, and things like that. So I mean, it'll be fun. But things might change, and they may want to keep me at safety and have another guy play nickel, and maybe they'll want another guy to play safety and me to play nickel. Things change week to week these days, I think that's just how it'll go for now. I think I'll be playing the nickel and things like that, so it'll be fun.

Q: A lot of the coaches have been talking about how this is going to be a Steelers 3-4. You taking a look at Troy Polamalu tape?

A: Yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to playing maybe a Troy Polamalu type role. He just causes havoc, he's all over the field, in the back field. To be honest, that's the type of player I want to be this year. That's the type of player I've been training to be this year. Just all over the field, you know what I mean, who blitzes, and you just never know where he's at on the field. That's the type of player, I guess, in my last year that I want to become, so I've been working hard and I've actually been watching a lot of their film from a couple years ago that our coaches showed us. It'll be really cool to maybe be that type of Troy Polamalu player. Obviously he's a great player, and I want to be my own player, but it'll be fun to play how he plays. I guess just how he runs around the field and makes plays. You never know where he is on any given play. It'll be fun.

Q: Hey, you're both about the same height as well, kind of that undersized strong safety.

A: Yeah, I actually had the chance to meet him a couple of times. My good friend at home, his sister is his wife. So I met him in high school a couple of times, at barbecues and things like that. But yeah, he's not, well, obviously he's big guy, but he's not as big as he plays on the field. He plays big. He plays fast and he plays hard. He's a hall of famer and he's a great player, but he's not that big. He just…he's smart, he knows where the ball is going to be, and his reaction time is unbelievable. He studies film so that he can kind of get a jump on quarterbacks, see if they don't have as good eyes or things like that, he can kind of break them down that way.

Q: Was there a directive from the coaching staff for you to get stronger or bigger this offseason?

A: Yeah, that's always the goal in the offseason. Myself, I wanted to put on more weight and thins like that. But I didn't want to be too heavy. I wanted to still stay comfortable. Honestly, I don't think you have to have all that much weight on just to play a strong safety spot. You just have to play. That's one thing I've always prided myself on, is just being a football player. That's one thing I've always thought. But obviously, I'm putting on more weight and getting stronger. That has been a key point throughout my offseason, and that's something I'll continue to do throughout spring, and then after spring I'm just going to continue getting stronger. And just take my body to places I guess it hasn't gone yet.

Q: What are you at weight-wise right now?

A: Right now, I'm at 185.

Q: That's got to be near where they want you anyway.

A: Yeah, like I said, I didn't want to get too heavy, but I feel like around my body, I still have room to put weight on. In my back and in my chest and things like that, so it's a work in progress. I don't want to throw too much weight on too fast and then not be able to move. I still want to have my flexibility and still be able to move and run.

Q: What do you think of Coach Martin so far, after the first couple of months?

A: I love him, man, just the energy he brings to the field. And like I said, I've only had a chance to meet with him a couple of times, but just his passion for football and just his vibe that he has with young kids and players on our team, he just brings that confidence that we've needed around here for a long time. He's a great coach and actually work with him and get in the film room and break down guys with him. I think it's really going to be a good way to end my career here at UCLA.

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