The former prep All-American played in all 12 games last season, primarily on special teams, and forced a fumble when on punt cover against Stanford that led to a UCLA touchdown.
But this spring the redshirt sophomore strong safety is healthy and running with the first-team defense with a good chance to start in the fall. The injuries, he admits, set him back some but he has played well in the secondary this spring and has been in position to make a lot of plays.
It seems like every year, you've been dealing with a health issue – hips, shoulders, something...
"Everything feels better now. I mean, I've been going to rehab and everything, so I should be 100 percent when the season comes around."
Physically, you're still dealing with some things?
"No, I'm fine. I get a little tight sometimes. When we don't practice for a day, I have to go in and get stretched and things like that because it tightens up, my hip. I had a torn labrum and a bone spur, but they did a good job on it. It doesn't hurt any more."
How much do you think the injuries set you back?
"Walking in the door I was injured. But looking back on it, like half the year, I had to make up for it when I did come back. I think I did that, but I'm still working on being the best that I can."
Is it still a situation where you're trying to get comfortable with all the book-type stuff, so you're not flowing as freely on the field?
"That happened last year. But this year, I know the plays a lot better. We have a new coaching staff and they're learning some of the plays, too, so they're not teaching us more than what we expected. But I think it's fine."
It's kind of hard to just go out and play freely if you're thinking all the time, isn't it?
"Yeah, exactly. I'm not thinking about anything now. I'm just playing."
So, you've found a real comfort level now with the playbook?
"Yeah, it's real comfortable now. Me and the guys, we can read each others minds already, so when the season comes along, it's going to be real good."
With the new stuff, the summer will be real important then...
"It's going to be real important. I think it will be fun. We'll practice all of our new stuff during the 7-on-7s in the summer time, hit the weight room, too."
Is the new stuff coming in different, or does it fit in pretty well?
"I think it fits in. We've already got some new stuff in, but it's similar, so it's fine. We're running basic coverage stuff now. It's spring ball, so you don't want to show too much. We go through it already in the locker room, but we haven't come out here and played it yet."
You mentioned getting stronger, lifting, what do you want to look like when August rolls around?
"Size wise, I'm 6-foot-4 now … I hope I don't grow any more. But weight, I want to get to 220 (from 212), and I want to get faster over the summer time, too. That's my goal right now."
What's the 40 right now?
"What was it? 4.5 right now. It was high, but it was in the morning … 7 o'clock, so I was kind of tight. It's fine. It was the winter time, that's when you want to start gaining weight, there's not as much conditioning and quickness as we wanted. It's more build to the muscle up."
You like the weight program?
"I love it. Coach (Mike) Linn, since he's been here, has picked it up so much. Higher expectations, higher everything … I love it."