Secondary coach Demetrice Martin answered questions from the media after practice Wednesday.
On losing key players in the secondary:
Well yeah. We lost some guys, definitely that played a lot of ball for us. But then we also, ironically, got a lot of guys who got some experience within the defense. So we’ve got some game-time experience, some guys that are familiar with the schemes and techniques and stuff like that. So we just keep trying to level up.
On training defensive backs at multiple positions (nickel, safety and corner)
Well, always. We’re in the Pac-12, and the ball is up a lot – conference of quarterbacks – so we like to get guys cross-trained and able to play every position because it’s a matchup league. Guys have to learn how to play nickel, dime, free safety, strong safety and play corner. That way we can always hang loose and adjust.
On how Mossi Johnson is adjusting to defense
Oh, really good. He’s coming along. It’s a little different for him, because usually when guys make that switch, they’re kind of just playing freely, and when they end up making plays, they’re like, ‘Oh, defense is easy.’ Now when we start installing stuff, and you have certain responsibilities, that’s when it slows down for them and gets a little hard. But now, he’s back on the incline with it, understanding he has to study his stuff and know where he’s supposed to be – and just make your plays where you’re supposed to be.
On Mossi’s leadership qualities / effervescent personality
I love it. Mossi brings, like you said, a tough guy type of mentality, a no-quit kind of attitude with everything he does. So it’s perfect for the defensive side of the ball.
On various CBs stepping up, such as Denzel Fisher, Colin Samuel, Keyon Riley
I wouldn’t use the word ‘surprised’ – it was expected. I would be disappointed if it didn’t happen. Just developing those guys and giving them the reps and giving them the opportunity to get better, and they’re taking ownership of it. Those guys are in their playbooks, they’re out here early (to practice), doing extra technique, they’re out here late doing extra technique.
On how long he's been bargaining for Mossi to play on defense?
Well we always talked about it. Mossi, he slow-played it himself, because he’s caught up on being on ESPN and scoring touchdowns and doing touchdown dances. And I’m like, ‘well, you can go get an interception and do a touchdown dance.’ So, you know, it’s kind of just more of a mindset. Because at DB, you’ve gotta want to play defensive back. And he’s bought into it, and I think you’re gonna see him shoot up the ranks.
On whether Mossi will be solely a defensive player this season
Oh definitely. I think he has the opportunity, or he has the ability to be able to go both ways. He knows the offense, he knows how to run the routes. And now, as he keeps learning the defense, it’s perfect. I think the timing that coach Mora gave us the ability to move him over during the spring, so when we go back to fall, it’s all review to him. We dibbled and dabbed with it this year and the prior years, but it was mid-season, those type of things, so it was like ‘Oh, I can trust you out here yet.’ Now, I think he’ll be able to earn that trust to be out there in any situation and at any position come fall camp.
On Adarius Pickett’s spring camp so far
Oh yeah, he’s taken right over. I like to think of him as like a Fabian Moreau. He’s a type of guy that’s a leader on the field, off the field, knows every position, knows all the communications. ‘Pick’ is solid through and through – he has a lot of game experience, as we all know. And now he’s ready to step up and take the leadership role, definitely.
On Darnay Holmes
Well, Darnay is special. He’s a special guy – tremendous athlete. I think he just needs to get his strength up – get used to how fast the game is and how strong the guys are. But his athleticism supersedes a lot. So he makes up a lot with his athleticism. I think he’s a guy that can definitely impact. His advantage is just being here now, as a spring guy. So again, in fall camp, it’s all review to him. So it will be really easy for him to step in and not be new.
On whether DB is the toughest position to play for an early-enrollee freshman
No doubt. I don’t care if you’re early or late – whenever you come in; DB is the hardest position to play in the world, to me. I’m biased, you know.
On why DB is the toughest position to play in the world
Because you have to have the athleticism of those fast receivers, you have to have the strength of those running backs, and you don’t know where you’re going – you’re running backwards and they’re running forwards. And they know where they’re going.
On whether the DB group has set a list of goals for the season
We haven’t really set out specific goals and stuff like that yet – as far as numbers, or things and such like that. We just always want to continue to do what we do: stay on top of the deep ball, not miss any tackles, communicate and help the team be better.