"It feels good. The thing about it is, time's up. It's time to make things happen. Once you've been out there for a while. We have a bunch of veterans out there who have seen it all. No excuses this time, it's time to make it happen."
As a guy who has started 30 consecutive games, how comfortable are you heading into the season?
"I feel very comfortable. But the one thing is, you get that chance each and every Saturday to get out there and make things happen. Last year, (our play) wasn't acceptable for the type of team we want to be. We get another chance this year to get out there and raise the bar. With all the experience, all these guys coming back, there are no excuses. None of this, guys are young, none of this, oh we haven't seen it, none of this. We hve great players and great coaches and we'll go out there and win some ball games.
What are your expectations for the season?
"Going out there with the attitude that we're the best, and proving to everyone that we're the best."
You don't want to throw out a win-loss projection?
"No, because our first game is Stanford, and that is most important right now. As long as we go out there with that mindset, everything else will take care of itself.
With a year's perspective, talk about the mindset that Walker has brought to the program and the changes he brought last year:
"He brings everything to the table. He's a smart guy and he brings great leadership and a great mindset to the defense. He's one of the best coaches I've ever been around. He is always putting us in position to make plays. Being in this system for another year it's a lot easier for us to just go out there and play ball. Less thinking when you've been in a system for a while. Now it's just football, that's what we love to do. Now it's time to just run, knock people out, pick off passes and celebrate in the endzone."
How nice is it to not be playing Cover 2 the entire season?
"It's good when you get a chance to mix it up. We have the luxury of a lot of smart guys on the defense where we can mix things up, get differenct calls, change defenses and put Coach Walker in a position where he can call a lot of different things and we can execute them. We make it easier on him, and he makes it easier on us."
Do you like the challenges of Walker's scheme, where there's a lot of man to man coverage?
"I love the challenges. I get to look that receiver in the eyes and let him know that you're right there. And soon as you make that play, you can tell him come get it next time cause I'm going to be here all day. I love that challenge. We like to mix it up, though, play a little zone play a little man. We like to keep offenses off balance."
What goes through your mind when you line up against some 6'5 receiver?
"That he's going to be in trouble. Because if you have to see 23 all day, that can't be a good feeling on the other side of the ball."
What personal goals do you have this season?
"I want to work on everything. Whether that's picking balls off, covering better, I just want to make more plays. I want to be the best, and when I say the best, I don't just mean the best in the Pac-10. I want to be the best in the nation. In order to do that, you've got to prove it each and every Saturday.
Is this year your audition for the NFL?
"Definitely, it's always been an audition. This year, we gotta go out there and do great things, but I'd definitely welcome the opportunity to play in the NFL. We have to take care of this stuff here first, though, winning games, and going out there and knocking receivers out and bringing pain every play. But that's definitely a great dream of mine.
In the 1-on-1s, you were beaten by Marcus at one point- how'd you let that happen?
"I don't know, I'll have to look at the film and see if he got that foot in ["he did"]. He's a great receiver, going against guys like him and (Brandon) Breazell gives the guys in the secondary a great opportunity to raise our game because they do a great job of trying to get open and create separation. But we go back and forth, he likes to give me some, I give him some.
It is just fun practicing and playing with guys you are this familiar with at this point?
"It definitely is. You're surrounded by a group of guys who have been there and done that, and who are smart as well. When you're around great guys, you have no other choice but to be great."
In terms of the younger guys, how important is it for you seniors to really bring those guys along?
"For (Alterraun) Verner, he's like a veteran himself. For the younger guys, you take pride in your school and these guys are also maybe going to be playing a little bit, so when you're out there doing your business you take the responsibility of helping the younger guys along. But they've all done a great job. (Courtney) Viney and the other guys have come along a great ways. And they're going to continue to get better. You know you're only as good as your weakest component so we've gotta pick it up so that no matter who is put out there, they are going to lock down receivers and be successful."