Off-Season Talk: Carter Steps Up

BRO continues with its off-season interviews by sitting down with senior defensive tackle David Carter. With the position looking thin for next fall, Carter talks about it, a potential surprise, and what he's been doing to make the complete transition from defensive end...

Well, you're obviously stepping into a pretty huge role next season … it's a ready or not here it is type of thing and there are also high expectations. What are your thoughts on that?

‘'Like you said, it's a pretty big role, but it's either go hard or go home. I've got to come and I've got to be ready. That's my goal. That's all that's on my mind – be ready and be successful in that. I'm going to do my best and my best is going to be really good this season.''

That's good to know. With the lack of experience at the d-tackle spots, can you play the 3- and the 1-technique at the same time? Got that in you?

‘'(Laughs). You know what, I feel that somebody is going to step up. I think we're going to have some of these freshmen come in and do kind of like what Brian Price did, ball-out and have a great season. I'm going to have a great season next year. I'm working hard enough I better have a great season. But, you know, next year if Coach (Howard) asks me to play 3-technique and nose, or if he wants me to play a little defensive end or whatever, you know what, that's what I'm going to do and I'm going to my best and I'm going to do good at it, too. That's what I told my coaches – you want me to play whatever I'll play it, I don't care, I'm going to do good, so …''

Do you have a preference to the 3- or the 1-technique?

‘'Well, 3-technique, I would play 3-technique because that's what I played last year. But to be honest with you, there's really not a difference. You're basically taking on double teams pretty much every play anyway. It's really not that much of a difference, you're just … you know, lined up in a different spot, that's all. Well, there is a slight difference. In 3-technique you can be a little more explosive, a little more crazy and just go balls out. Other than that, no …''

Sounds like it's the 3 …

‘'Yeah, I guess so … I would say the 3-technique is pretty good.''

When you look back on last year, the one thing that stands out is the 4th-down at Tennessee at the end, the goal line stand. What do you remember from that play?

‘'I remember, basically, that I was going on the field and going, ‘Oh, man, this is a pretty big play … Like, this is a make or break play … OK, let's go.' I was like, ‘Well, shoot, just go out there. Like I was saying, I'm out here, just do my best, balls out, balls to the wall, just go blast the guy off the ball and that's all I did, gave my best effort and blasted the dude off the ball and the next thing you know everybody is jumping up and down and screaming and I was like, ‘Yaaaaaaa …' I didn't know what was going on because I was underneath the pile. I felt the guy hit me in the back and I was like, ‘I guess he didn't get over.' It was an exciting play and I think that game, that Tennessee game was a big game for me.''

Why so big?

‘'I did a lot of good things in that game, and the year before last I played defensive end … it meant a lot to me because, you know, I didn't weight a lot. I was 260 my sophomore year. I was 260 playing defensive end and they were like, well, you need to play 3-technique because we're short d-tackles so we're going to move you inside. I thought, ‘All right.' But Coach (Mike) Linn, he was like, ‘David, you've got to put on 30 pounds. You might not make it, you might not make 290 or 300 pounds, but you've got to put on that weight because when you get to Tennessee … ‘ That's what he said. I was like, Tennessee? He said, ‘They're going to be some big corn-fed men out there ready to play so you've got to go out there and be big, corn-fed, too, otherwise you're going to get tossed around.'

‘'So, that game meant a lot to me. I went out there and I showed them, I proved to Coach Linn, I can hang with the best of them. Just because I didn't play last year doesn't mean that I can't play this year. It's a totally different year, you know? I have a work ethic like no other, when it comes to the weight room. I just completely turned myself around and turned into a new person. That game meant a lot to me. It's like the mark, all my hard work, that's where it came out at. That I showed that I can play 3-technique.''

Like you said, that had to answer some questions for you. I know in making the move inside, a lot of people thought … he's 260, can he make it? Can he hold up in there?

‘'Well, by the start of the season I was 305. When we were playing Tennessee I was up to 305 and I was moving. I could move really good, and I still can. This season, I just know, I have a good frame for the weight, for 305. I can hold it good. So this year I think I'm going to be like 330 and I'm just going to be even better. I can't wait. I'm working out. I'm doing a lot of things. My girlfriend's dad is a trainer, my trainer, and I'm working with Coach Linn, I'm doing some extra stuff working on agility and all that stuff. I just want to have a better season than I did last year, I want to have a better season than Brian Price did, I want to have a better season than anybody. I want to be the best.''

So how much do you have to eat to get from 260 to 300?

‘'It's funny. They gave us this card with how many calories you're supposed to consume in a day and I think it said 8,000 calories in a day. I'm like, 8,000 calories … 8,000 calories? I looked at it and I thought, ‘How am I going to do this?' I was looking at the things that had the most calories that would be the healthiest thing for me to eat – I didn't want to eat a lot of fast food. But I was like … 8,000 calories? Tacos became my staple … tacos, potatoes, pasta. It was crazy … a lot of food.''

And now you get to do that all over again …

‘'Yeah, I do. Luckily, my girlfriend cooks, so that helps. But, yeah, I think this year coming up is going to be a great year for our defensive line. We might have a secret weapon coming in, coming to the defensive line, coming to the dark side, is what we call it.''

Secret weapon? Is that you? I guess the secret is already out with you …

‘'Me? I'm already on the defensive line, but we've got somebody coming over … You guys will see when spring ball rolls around. It will be a good surprise. That will be good, and I plan on getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback to give my boy Rahim Moore some picks and set up all of the other corners and get some sacks for myself. I'm trying to go pro and help my family out. That's my motivation, helping out my family in these hard times and this economy.''

When you look at that, and this past year, I know taking plays away from Brian Price is pretty tough but at the end of the year you were getting 10 or 15 plays a game. How difficult do you think it will be going from that to 45, 55 plays a game?

‘'I don't think it will be difficult at all. I have a motor. I'll go out there and I'll play. I'm not going to be in shock or afraid, that's just not my mentality. I go out there and I'm just going to give it my all. I've been on the field before, I know what it's like. I'm not afraid. I've proven that I can play. I knew I could play, but I've proven to everybody else that I can play, so I'm just going to go out there knowing I did good and proved that I could play with 15 plays a game, so just imagine what I could do with 55. I'm going to take advantage of every single play and go all out.''

That confidence, that obviously has been building, does that all spin off that Tennessee game? Maybe somewhere else, where you realized, ‘I can do this, I can be that guy?'

‘'It all comes with the work. The harder I work, I just know that I'm working harder than 99 if not 100 percent of the guys out there right now. I'm trying to go somewhere. I want to work, but not in an office. I'm trying to work on the football field. Like I said, it comes with the work. I'm working out at 5 in the morning, 3 in the morning. I can't sleep, so I'll go to the gym or I'll just do random stuff. I'll join a boxing class, just to make myself that much better. That's what I … I'm just determined to do whatever it takes and with that determination and with that drive comes confidence.''

I guess that's the thing. I remember talking to Coach Howard about you, about ceilings and stuff like that. He said you always make plays, whether you're doing the techniques correctly or not. So you're putting those two things together now?

‘'Right now I'm working on my technique and working on my footwork, hand to eye coordination, so I can bring it onto the field with Coach Howard, so I can do everything to his liking. I figure if I do it that way, you know, he's coached in the NFL before and he's seen the best of the best. I've learned so much from him, I figure just do what he says …''

So where are you, in terms of the technique, right now?

‘'As far as the technique, I'm getting the technique down. It's no different than defensive end and I've been playing defensive end my whole life. Well, it is different. But defensive end is more speed, defensive tackle is more holding your ground, staying in your gap. Technically, I've got it down for the most part, but according to Coach Howard my technique is a little off. I just want to be perfect and with that same kind of determination I have in the gym, like I gained that 30 or 40 pounds in the off-season, I'm going to do that same thing on the field and in practice. I figure if I do that, if I get that technique down, the NFL is right around the corner.''

This is kind of new for you. Was there sort of a light switch going off there, in regards to that? Just looking at you, high school or whatever, you could just throw guys aside, then you got here. But at this level, technique is so important …

‘'High school, I was big man on campus. I was a defensive end, I was 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds. I was pretty big for a defensive end in high school. I was clothes-lining cats and making them do flips and throwing them around, like you said. But college is different – everybody is big, everybody is an All-American, all-state, whatever. When I came here I had that mentality that freshman have, yeah, you know, I was good in high school and I'm the same size as them … I'll be good. You know, I didn't work hard. Honestly, I didn't work hard. And then, afterwards, like you said, that light just came on.

‘'I had a talk with my little brother (Chris) and he's the one who kind of turned that light on in my head. He said, ‘Stop trying to be great and just be great.' Because I was like, you know, I was relaxing. I thought I was going to be good, but I didn't do any of the work to be good, or be great. But like I said, after I heard that, that day, it turned the light on for me and I found myself in the gym and I found myself on the field practicing. My brother, he plays football, too, (at Fresno State) and he's good. He's really good. He had nine sacks with one hand – he had a club on his hand because he broke his finger and he had a metal plate and screws in there. He broke his hand in like the second game of the season and still had nine sacks. He's my little brother but in a sense I still look up to him.''

And he challenged you in that way?

‘'He helped turn that light on.''

Before then, did you even think about playing in the NFL?

‘'You know, I thought, like I said, I was just relaxing. I wasn't really working for it. But now, like I said, that light came on, that light came on and I'm like a different person. I'm not the same. I'm different, a different person.''

I don't know about before, but now, you have to know you can do that. I mean, people talk about Brian Price and, wow, if Brian Price were 6-5 instead of 6-2 playing tackle …

‘'He'd be the No. 1 pick …''

Yeah, and here you are, 6-5 and three bills … That's got to make that seem even more real.

‘'It helps. Brian Price being here and being ahead of me, it actually helped me out because I learned from him. It's funny, because he makes it seem a lot easier than what it really is. He makes it seem a lot easier than it really is. But, you know, I sat down one day and I just watched him. I watched film of him … what's this guy doing that makes him so great? His explosiveness and, like you said, his technique. Those things got him to where he is right now and I'm proud of him.''

Your curiosity got you into the film room?

‘'Yeah. I was like, what is this guy doing? How does he do that? That was before the season. I started mimicking some of his stuff, I started watching more NFL stuff and looking at these guys and what they are doing, at all positions … linebackers, whatever. Just because I'm a d-lineman doesn't mean I have to watch d-linemen. I can watch Ray Lewis, Julius Peppers … these guys.''

So what do you think you're going to look like for the start of fall camp?

‘'My goal is to be 330 for the start of fall camp. I'm going to lose weight, camp weight, maybe 10 pounds, so I'll be 320 when the season starts and I'll stay around there. That's my goal, to be 320 and solid. I don't want to be 320 and can't move. I'm going to be 320 and solid, and be a force to reckoned with. I want some offensive lineman to look at me and just cry. That's what I want.

"I'm working to be that team leader that everybody is looking up to, and like I said that comes with hard work. Just like Rahim. He's younger. He's a sophomore right now. But that guy works harder than anybody on the team. He does the school stuff and then he goes off and does whatever he does on his own and it's worked for him. He's leading the nation in picks, you know? Like I said, he's a sophomore going into his junior year, but in my eyes and in the team's eyes, he's a team leader.''

Do you feel like you're going to have to take some of that role, especially up front?

‘'Definitely. It's going to be me and Reggie Stokes because we're the older guys, we're the starters. It's going to be me and him being the leaders of the defensive line. We're seniors, so that role automatically falls onto our shoulders no matter what, so you may as well be a good defensive leader. No matter what it is, if you're older, if you're a senior, people are going to look up, ‘OK, what is he doing? I'm going to do what he's doing,' good or bad, and I want to be that good influence, a positive influence on the team.''

When you look back at everything now, is it like …

‘'(Laughs) I didn't think it was going to … I didn't think I was going to be playing defensive tackle when I first came here. I thought I was going to be a defensive end, at the most be 260, 265, and I remember our old weight lifting coach told me, ‘I want you to be 285.' And I was like, 285, that's too heavy. And now I'm 300 pounds right now and I want to be 320 and I can't wait. That's my goal right now and I'm going to get that goal. It's going to be nice. You guys are going to see me, when we're playing against whoever, I'm going to be just running through cats.''

When you look at the defensive next year … Brian Price, Reggie Carter, Alterraun Verner … how do you see all that fitting together? How do you replace that talent?

‘'We have a lot of talent on our team. They did a lot of good recruiting last year and as far as linebackers, we have (Steve) Sloan … the thing about Sloan is, the way he carries himself, he knows how to lead that defense, he knows how to hype that defense up. It's his personality. Whatever he does, he yells and screams and cracks jokes and it just gets the team hyped up. I think he's going to lead our defense and we're just going to have a crazy, just hyped, just wired defense, every play, every down.

‘'Akeem Ayers obviously is going to be a great key to our team next year. The defensive line, we have Stokes as one of the ends and we have Datone Jones as one of the ends ... Damien Holmes. We have young guys coming in for the defensive tackle, the other defensive tackle position is me. We have Akeem, we have Rahim Moore. We have guys. We have a lot of good defensive players still. As far as the corner position, we have a lot of young guys that are very athletic, very smart guys. That's what's going to be good for them. That's what made Alterraun so great – he was smart. He wasn't the biggest guy, he wasn't the fastest guy, but he was smart. These guys are smart and they'll be able to catch on quick and they can learn, and we have a lot of good leaders because we learned from the past guys, from Reggie Carter, Brian Price, Alterraun Verner … these guys paved the way for us, so now we have to pick it up and do better because that's what they want.

‘'They want us to do better than they did and that's what we're going to do. I think we're going to have a great team next year, I do. I think there won't be a drop off at all. As a matter of fact, I think we're going to be way better than what we were last year.''

There are a lot of guys, yourself included, that have a lot to prove …

‘'That's the thing about this year – a lot of guys are hungry. It's a competition. We're fighting for a position. We're fighting for a spot. The best man wins. Coach (Chuck) Bullough is a crazy person, he's a crazy man, and your spot is not guaranteed. I don't care who you are. Your spot is not guaranteed so people are going to be fighting for that position and when you're competing, you're doing whatever you can to get better than the next man, and when you're trying to get better than him and he's trying to get better than you, it keeps going up. It's a ladder, a fight for the top.''

I guess, individually, you're going to be kind of sneaking up on people this year. Senior year, played some but not a lot …

‘'I think so. I know so. Like I said, I'm working too hard to not be successful. I was watching this Ray Lewis thing today, about working to fail during the summer time, during the off-season, so when the season comes up I won't fail. I'm not going to fail because I'm working too hard.''

You're pushing yourself to that point?
‘'I'm going to eat, breathe and everything football.''

You have to do it, right? You get one shot at it.

‘'That's the mentality – we're going to be the best. Me and Rahim, every time we see each other, we go, ‘What's up, All-American defensive tackle?' and ‘What's up All-American safety?' We're already calling it out and we're going to make it reality.''

With everything, it seems like you've grown into it all … into the whole deal.

‘'You have to. I don't want to sit here and get caught by surprise by it. You have to be ready and the best way to be ready is to be there mentally. … Mentally, I'm putting myself in that spot to be the best. I learned a lot from Brian Price, I learned from Brian Price, I learned from Jerzy Siewierski, I learned from Brigham Harwell and Bear (Kevin Brown). I learned from all these guys and I'm going to take what I learned and put it all out there on the field and I'm going to take it with me to the next level.''

What did you take from each of those guys?

‘'There are a lot of things … I would say aggressiveness from Brian Price, aggressiveness and quickness. Leadership from Brigham – he's a great leader. Bear, also a good leader. And these guys, their work ethic was ridiculous. … That's what I learned from these guys. Some of them weren't the best players, Like Kevin Brown, he wasn't the best player. He was good. He wasn't the best, but he was good. But at the same time, he had that mentality where he just worked so hard he put himself into good positions.
‘'It was the same thing with Brigham Harwell. He was short for a defensive tackle. But the thing is, he worked so hard. He lifted like crazy. The same thing happened to him – he was like 260 and he got up to 300 pounds and he put himself in a good position to be a good player, to be known as a good player.''

Brigham, he was benching like 5-bills when he left here …

‘'Oh, man, it was a lot … it was stupid. His arms were so big, his arms looked like legs. They had to cut his jersey, make it all special because his arms were so big. It was crazy.''

So, you going to get to 5-bills, too?

‘'Oh, yeah, I'm on my way. I'm working hard.''

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