Over the summer a lot of the younger guys were citing you as a coach and a leader of the team, do you see yourself in that role for the season?
"Yeah, that's kind of my position on the defense. That's the way it's set up. I have to make the calls and the checks and kind of know what everyone is doing. I kind of like that stuff, I like the mental part of the game. You know, we have a bunch of leaders on the defense, and a bunch of guys who step up. It's not always good for it to come from one guy. I say stuff when I need to say it. Everybody else does as well. We have a bunch of seniors, I mean our whole defense is seniors so everyone says what they need to say and we've got a bunch of leadership."
Long term, do you see coaching as something in your future?
"I don't think so. I love the game, it's a great game. I've thought about it. I'm not saying it could never happen. There's a lot of stuff I want to do outside of football when I leave. I'm not done yet. But there's some things outside of football I want to do first. I don't know if coaching is in my future or not."
Talk about the depth behind you at linebacker...
"They're good. That's one thing that has been good about spring and right now is that we're developing depth. We're trying to develop depth across the board so that whoever comes in, there's no drop off. Right now, at linebacker, we have a few guys who can step in and play. And we're finding more. John Hale and Korey Bosworth have really played well and there's Shawn Oatis and Josh Edwards who have played well and are battling for that last spot in the two-deep, so I'm pretty pleased with the depth."
How have you been trying to help Hale behind you, with him moving to the middle linebacker spot?
"He's a smart kid. He knows most of it on his own. He's played in the middle before. He worked out in the middle last year. Even though he played Sam, he knew both positions. When he has a question, he asks me. Most of the time he knows it on his own. Some of the new stuff he doesn't know, so he has to kind of learn on the go, but he's doing well."
Do you consider yourself pretty much an expert on this defense now?
"[laughs] I mean, as expert as you can be. There's always more to know, more to learn. I still screw up. Yesterday I had two big mental busts in practice, things I screwed up that I should not be messing up. I was kind of ashamed of myself. Occasionally I'll call the wrong thing or say the wrong word, so you're never perfect, there's always something to learn, somewhere to improve. That's the thing about football, and defense. There's always something you can get better at. I'm not talking about just skill, but knowledge of the game and like knowing where everyone is and where the open gaps are and where the coverage is and where it is weak. And all this different stuff. With that, there's always more to learn. You can get so much, but still learn more. I still need to learn more."
As a slightly undersized guy, do you have to be pretty much mentally perfect?
"Yeah, it helps. For me, knowing as much as I can know. Knowing where the ball is possibly going to go, what play's possibly going to happen. If I see something, knowing in that instance where I need to go. Definitely helps me get a step. I rely on that and a lot of quickness. I'm still getting back in the swing of things now. I want to see more and learn more and get my mind back in the game. It takes a little while, a few days to get back in it. I want to see things quicker still. I'm still working on my reads, my run reads and my pass reads. The more I can do that the better. That's a large part of my game, a lot of the plays I make are based on that and preparation and knowing what can come out of certain sets. Then just minimizing the options, and going from there. So if I see one guy do something, I know I have to be in this position. So that helps. But you know, I have other aspects of my game that I use.
"I'm not that undersized."
How are your ankles doing?
"They feel good. Full recovery. I feel great right now, there's no pain."
How rough was that, playing on it last year?
"You know, it wasn't fun. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't a fun time. I'm glad that I went through it. It's experiences like that that you know they give you a sense of accomplishment. I feel accomplished that I was able to play 7 games with a trashed ankle on the Division I level in the Pac-10. I'm proud of that. I'm proud that I was able to do that. And really it helped me learn about myself. Something my dad always tells me, ‘You can do anything for a year if you put your mind to it.' A lot of it's mental, gutting it out and fighting through it."
How does the offense look from your perspective?
"It looks good. They're playing well. Ben looks good, the O-line looks good, and the backs are looking good. Offense just takes longer to establish an identity and work together, and we knew that was going to take a little longer with the new coach. I know Ben's been working all off-season. It's come a long way since spring. They have more work to do as we do. They're looking good. I'm excited to see what they do out there on the field."