Interview: Marcus Cassel

The junior cornerback, <b>Marcus Cassel</b>, could be the leading candidate for the open cornerback position. He talks about the competition and about his learning curve...

Marcus Cassel is a 6-0, 185-pound junior who is probably the leading contender for the open starting cornerback position.

So, how is it going working with the ones as the starting cornerback?

"It's pretty good. The other guys on the defense are making me feel really comfortable. That was my whole thing. Trying to fit in with them. It's their defense and I'm the new guy trying to come in and fit in with those guys. They're making it really good and easy. And now I know where I can fit in on the defense and where I can play within the scheme that's already established. So it's really good."

Do you feel you have a pretty good grasp of the defense at this point?

"Early on it was more thinking about it, in spring ball. But over the spring I got into my playbook a lot, and I started talking to the other guys on the defense – Jarrad (Page), Ben (Emanuel), Matt Clark and Justin London – and I started figuring out the whole picture. I started figuring out what their jobs were, too, within the defense. And that really helped me figure out what I'm supposed to do. Since then it's become more instinctual."

How do you think you're doing personally in fall camp?

"I think I'm getting better every day. I still have a lot to improve. Every day I try to work on something and just get better at it. I definitely don't think I am where I want to be yet. I try to look at the positives and I can definitely say compared to a year ago at this time I'm doing much better now. So, I think that's really all that matters."

I've heard the coaches praise you but then also point out a mistake you've made. Do you think you've been more on than off?

"I think on. I've definitely been more on than off. It just goes back to fitting into the defense. I'm the newcomer, and I have to fit into the scheme of the defense. The other guys have it down moreso than I do, so it's just me fitting in there and understanding what the coach wants. It's learning details, like certain zone principles when we're man-up, and things like that. It's getting more instinctual about it."

Have you been getting good feedback from the coaches?

"Sure. They are supportive when you do well, but they give you criticism when you do badly. But it's all good. I like to hear the good with the bad. If you can take the good, you have to be able to take the bad with it. And it's constructive. It helps me get better."

The competition for the open corner spot is mainly with Nnami Ohaeri. How are you two personally dealing with it?

"Nnam and I are the closest of friends. We roomed together in the off-season. We were going to live together for the school year off-campus, but that fell through. He's been over to my house and I've been to his house. We know that the competition is on the field. Everything that is on the field we realize is competition, and it's only going to make us better."

Do you two ever talk about it off the field?

"Never. We never even mention it. Well, actually, maybe we get a little competitive about it when we're playing a video game. If we're playing college football (video game), then we've talked about it. Nnamdi will be in while he's playing the video, and I'll say, ‘Hey, Nnam, why don't you sub me in? Let me get in there and play a little bit.' No, but it's all love. We make each other better. You know, he played safety, so if I had a question with the defense I could always go over to Nnam and ask him, ‘Hey, what's my responsibility for this?' And it's the same thing for him. I've been playing the corner position, it's my third year now, so if he has a question he can come and ask me. It's all love on both sides."

Do you think you'll be prepared to start on September 4th?

"Yes. I'm getting better every day and working hard. I feel I'm fitting in with the defense well. I feel like I'm doing a good fit right now. I don't maybe think I'm ready right now, but I know by the end of camp I'll be ready."

What are some of the specifics you have to work on?

"I have to work on redzone coverage. Some of those, and some of the press techniques that we use in man-to-man, filling up on the run...there are several things I need to focus on. But I take it day by day. If today we're doing redzone, I concentrate on redzone. If we're doing full live tackling drills, that's what I want to focus on. Every day it's something more."

How good could this defense be?

‘It has the potential to be really good. We have a lot of great guys returning, and then a lot of younger guys. We have a really good shot."

Even with the losses at defensive line?

"I think so. Coach Johnson is a good coach and he knows how to use his players. He'll rotate a lot of guys in so even though we lost a lot of guys a lot of the back-ups have played before and have experience. They're ready. They're young, quick and they're strong in the weight room. They're enthusiastic. And like I said, they've played before and know what they're doing. I think we'll be pretty good once it all gets ironed out and camp is over. We'll get there."

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