How do you think you're doing so far in practice?
"I think I've doing really well. Since my injury I've been really looking forward to coming back and showing what I can do. I think I've made improvement. So, I'm excited about the future. The defense is looking good and the team is looking good."
Was it tough to sit out spring?
"I knew I wouldn't be able to participate in spring since it was so close to my surgery. But even though I had to do it, it's still hard, just sitting and watching. I just was focused then on getting better."
What's the status of your shoulder?
"I'm cleared, but they want me to take it a little easy since I hadn't hit in so long. I am hitting in the second practice of the day. No contact on the first practice, but then I'm full speed in the second. It feels good. It feels strong. It's sore, from just hitting. But there isn't pain like there was.
What exactly was wrong with your shoulder and what did the surgery correct?
"My shoulder cap was loose because it was coming out so much. I had some tears and they had to do a shoulder cap shift, and all of this stuff, and tighten it up. They did a lot of things, but it feels a lot better. Right now I'm just trying to get used to hitting again."
When were you cleared to practice?
"I was cleared during the summer to do everything, work out with the team, and do my lifting. So, I concentrated on doing everything I could do to catch up. I'm pretty much back to my original weight. As far as my strength, it's back. I'm only maybe ten pounds off of where I was lifting before."
Starting your third year in the program, with some game experience, do you feel you have a good handle of your assignments?
"I know where to go, where to be, so, now there's nothing holding me back, compared to when you first come in and you don't know what you're doing. I can now go out there and fly around and get to the ball, knowing all my reads and checks. I've been in all these situations before so. After my first year that's when I really started knowing what I was doing. I was second string last year behind Marques Anderson and Jason Stephens. But I think I pretty much knew what I was doing last year. I watched them a lot. And then I did get a couple of starts at the end of the season, and I knew what I was doing out there, so I pretty much think last season is when I really learned it all. But Marques and Jason taught me a lot. I've been knowing the defense for about a year, but you have to do it."
You've been playing primarily the free safety position to learn the position. Do you think you'll be the starting strong safety?
"I hope so. I'm learning free right now and talked to Coach Snow about that. He really wanted me to learn the free safety so I could play both, because you never know what happens during a season. He said, ‘You know the strong, I already know you know the strong, so why don't you get in at the free and learn that.' And then he matched us up with younger guys so you can teach them. Matt Ware has someone who hasn't played, Kevin Brant has someone who hasn't and I have someone who hasn't [Jibril Raymo] that we've been matched up with at safeties so far in practice. And Jibril's good. He knows what he's doing he just hasn't played in a game yet."
Do you think you know free safety now?
"I think I do. Because it's not that much different than strong safety. As far as knowing what to do, if you know what one safety is supposed to be doing, you probably know what the other should be doing. If you know the strong you know the free. But going from free to strong might be a little harder. But I think I pretty much have a handle on all of it."
You'll be competing with Jibril for the starting strong safety position, among others. Does it ever make it tough competing with a friend like that? Are you and Jibril close?
"Oh, yeah, we're close.But that's just how it is. I lived with Jason Stephens and he was the starting strong safety last year. That's just how it is. We all know that that's how it is. When you don't start you have to go home and listen to the starter talk about the game. But that gets you to try to beat them out, you know. Jibril makes me better and I make him better, and we make the team better. That's what competition does."
What's your opinion of this year's defense?
"I think we're good. I think the defense thinks we're good. We do have some young guys that don't have as much experience as last year, but everyone on defense is very capable of getting the job done. We don't have the big names, but we have the ability to do what it takes. I think we can actually do better because we don't have all the big names and might be more of a team. We're all together, instead of couple of guys here and there. I think we're going to be good and catch a lot of people by surprise."