On who has locked in their starting spot on defense so far:
Well I think we’re pretty solid with some of our guys up front. We have a nice rotation going there – about eight guys up there that we’re going to have to rotate to get good. So we keep those guys fresh, we’re trying to develop depth there. For our linebackers, if we keep constantly working there, I think Kenny (Young) and Josh Woods are pretty solid; we lost Dechaun (Holiday) with the shoulder (injury) at the SAM – we’ll be searching there. So we’re starting to play a lot more nickel; and that’s OK, we play a lot more nickel anyways when we get going here throughout the season. So that’s not going to be a major problem for us.
On Dechaun Holiday’s injury:
Yeah, I’m not sure, I don’t know the extent of it, I don’t know exactly how long he’ll be out or anything like that. But we have to be prepared that he won’t be with us the rest of spring.
On how the DBs are looking:
Well I think we’re OK. One thing coach Martin does is he constantly cross-trains everybody at different positions. Not always in practice, but the mental reps in meetings. So if something does happen, we’re able to (adjust) like last year. We’re constantly moving people around over there – we may not necessarily be playing our best five at the positions they’ll be playing, so I want to get them to learn at all the different places as they go through it. Like last year, Randall (Goforth), you get into the Arizona State game, we lose a guy pre-game, and then Randall has to go and play his position. A lot of times he doesn’t rep it, but he gets mental reps. So we’re constantly moving guys, trying to get that versatility.
On Nate Meadors’ spring camp performance so far:
Nate’s done fine. I think Nate keeps getting better. Nate’s a guy that’s played, has experience, very confident in his abilities, and he’ll get continue to get better because he works at it.
On whether Jaleel Wadood was demoted to second-team on Wednesday for disciplinary reasons:
No, we just move Jaleel around. If you watch our fields, we’re moving different people for different combinations because of communications. You know, they all communicate differently. So we kind of try to group different people, in case we do get in a situation where we have those guys, and they kind of know how to communicate with each other. When you get a group that always works together, and then a new guy gets in there, they take for granted the calls that they have to make – they don’t understand some of the body motions or the body language; they try to disguise things.
On where Jaelan Phillips ranks among the true freshman defensive ends he’s seen:
He’s doing great for us so far. He’s come in, and I’m impressed with the way (he and Darnay) have handled everything. I told you last time we talked: They go to class, they’ve done well in school, they come out here every day in practice, they’re not used to this type of grind, they’re mentally putting a lot of things in, they’ve adjusted to that and done well. (Jaelan) competes, he comes out and when he’s out here he plays hard all the time. Both of those guys play hard. Today, Darnay with the great field-goal block to win it for us in that red zone period, so we don’t have to watch those guys run. Here, what we do is the winners run and get better, (while) the losers have to watch. So Darnay comes in, block the kick with a lot of confidence. They both have a lot of confidence. They go about their work. When you watch them, if you didn’t know they were seniors in high school, and you didn’t know what their numbers were, you would never guess them.
On Mossi Johnson:
Yeah, he’s playing checkers going back and forth. And he’s playing all different positions. So there’s some things with him that he’s learning. And like I said, coach Martin’s got him moving all over the place – he plays safety, he plays nickel, he’s all over the place. So for him, it will catch up. You know, right now, he’s just trying to figure it all out so he’s not playing as fast as he will when it all comes together for him.
Would you prefer to keep Mossi on defense full-time?
I like him. I hope so. I pick on him every day, so it’s fun, it gives me someone to pick on. He picks on me, too, so he’s kind of fun to be around. I enjoy his spirit, I enjoy the way he comes out and gets guys going. He’s got a little something about himself. And we’re happy to have him over there.
On whether this team will be able to replace the pass rushing that Takk provided last year:
You had to bring that up didn’t you? I thought we talked about this, Takk. All the pro guys call me about Takk, too, so I’m happy for him. I hope it goes well for him when (the NFL draft) comes up that Thursday. You know, we’re not going to replace him; we’ve got some guys, it’s going to be their chance to shine. I think we’ll be OK. We’ve got enough people. I think we might have to do a couple things differently with not having Takk, because we’ did use Takk’s skill level at different places, and I don’t think we’ll do it this year – it will be a little bit different in how we set that up.
On which defensive position is toughest to play for an early-enrollee freshman:
It’s what Darnay’s doing – by far. I think that Darnay, because he’s playing some nickel, he’s gotta be able to play the corner, he’s doing a lot of different things out here early. So the learning curve in the pass game is a lot different I think than high school – that’s the one part. You know, Jaelan, he’s got learning to do, but it’s still usually two guards and two tackles. So he gets an idea for where to line up. But for Darnay, it’s much different mentally. And that’s what I said about him – hanging in there. It’s not so much the physical – he’s getting tired, he’s not used to this type of tempo, obviously – but mentally there’s a lot of stuff we do put in that he’s gotta be on top of.
On if it's challenging for Darnay because he’s not only learning corner but he’s also learning nickel:
Yeah. I said coach Martin does that deliberately (trains the DBs at different positions) to help them. Because once he figures out, ‘I know where i’m going to play him during the year,’ then if something happens, at least he’s gone in there (to other positions). Plus, when you play the nickel, now you have a little better idea when you go back to play corner. So I think that’s one thing we try to do: cross-train as many guys as we can. And Angus (McClure) does the same thing with defensive line – he moves them around so to make sure that we have enough depth if something does happen. It is the spring, so we can do those things.
On the importance of keeping the entire defensive coaching staff in tact this past offseason:
That’s big for us, we’re used to that. We now know how each other talks about different things – we get a feel. I think the meetings are smoother – we can advance faster because everybody knows the terminology. That helps us be all on the same page on that. Then there’s a trust factor, we know each other, we communicate better. So when we can stay together, it helps us, because we are on the same page.