lot of game experience," says the rising junior. "It's our time. Everything is due.""> lot of game experience," says the rising junior. "It's our time. Everything is due."">

Jungle's Book: Jovan Haye reviews spring practice

Elected team captain for a second straight year, defensive end Jovan Haye looms as a strong candidate for All-SEC honors in 2004. In this VandyMania exclusive, "Jungle" talks about the progress made by the Vanderbilt defense in the recently completed spring practice. "We've just got a lot of guys now with a <i>lot</i> of game experience," says the rising junior. "It's our time. Everything is due."


VandyMania: Jovan, from a defensive standpoint, what would you say the emphasis has been on? What have the coaches been most trying to accomplish in spring practice?

Jovan Haye: Essentially it's tackling and getting more and more aggressive. We've just got to make bigger plays this year. There were a lot of times last year where we were just not in the right position to make plays, or we didn't finish the play. So they've put a lot of emphasis on being more aggressive and finishing our plays. Besides that, just learning the defenses. We have a lot of young guys on the second team, so we're trying to get everybody on the same page and learning the plays.

VandyMania: Were they trying to put in any new plays into the defense over the spring, or is it pretty much the same as you've been doing the last two years?

Jovan Haye: We're straightforward. The last two years, we've just been trying to go at you and do whatever works. Of course you're going to have to make changes here and there, but we were just trying to get really good at the base defense and go from there.

VandyMania: How would you describe the tone of practices this spring?

Jovan Haye: Very upbeat. People making plays, both on offense and defense. Making plays when they needed to.

VandyMania: Last spring you wore the gold jersey [for outstanding play in practice] about four or five days in a row... did anyone do that this spring?

Jovan Haye: Actually it was everybody. I only had it once. This year it seemed like every day it was someone new on the defensive side. And that's real good-- it shows that everybody is contributing something. It's a lot better when it's not just one person having the jersey over and over. It's a good sign.

VandyMania: Defensive end is a position where it seems like we're always a little short-handed. Last year you were down to three defensive ends by the spring game, and this year you were back down to three again just a week or so into practice. You're holding down one side, but Chris Booker got hurt, and you lost some others due to suspensions. Talk about the depth at the end positions.

Jovan Haye: We did get banged up, but this fall we're bringing in seven new [freshmen] defensive linemen, so we should have a little more depth there then. This spring we had to deal with what we had. We had me, Richard Freeman, Aaron Carter, and Robert Dinwiddie also played some at end this spring. Robert is versatile enough to play both tackle and end, so that helped out a lot.

VandyMania: Aaron was new to the defensive end position... how would you say that worked out?

Jovan Haye: He took a lot of great steps this spring. I mean, he's probably still got a lot to learn, but so do all of us. He made a lot of big plays out there. He learned every day, so we're going to be OK with A.C. out there.

VandyMania: We also hear Ray Brown is a guy who is going to help out a lot at tackle.

Jovan Haye: Oh, Ray Brown, he's going to be a good one. He's strong, very powerful, and quick. He's just going to come in and do what he's got to do, whether he's first or second team. You always know he's going to give it all he's got when it comes to rotating them in and out this year.

VandyMania: At linebacker you've got all your starters back... you've got Moses Osemwegie, Herdley Harrison and Otis Washington. One guy who really impressed me last year was Kevin Joyce.

Jovan Haye: Kevin is an all-out guy. He's gonna give it everything he's got, every time out. He's extremely agile, and fast. He's not as big as some of our other linebackers, but he plays with a big heart. I'm expecting big things from him.

VandyMania: Then you had two redshirt freshmen that the coaches are very high on, Jonathan Goff and Curtis Gatewood.

Jovan Haye: They're both going to be great help for this team. They're both young, and very athletic. They're going to have to learn and get a little more experience, but they will be ready to roll. Spring was great for them, because they both got a lot of plays and got into the rotation pretty good. We're all expecting them to be a big part of the defense this year.

VandyMania: What is it about this defense that makes you think it will be improved over last year?

Jovan Haye: We've just got a lot of guys now with a lot of game experience. It's our time. Everything is due. We've got several guys that have the capability of being all-stars. We've got a lot of good players on defense now. It's just a matter of coming together and jelling. Last year, if you look at the statistics, we improved in every defensive category. So we hope to step it up even further, and be ranked around here.

VandyMania: That class that you're a part of, that will be going into its fourth year on campus this fall... does it seem to you as though that class has really taken over a lot of the leadership roles, and that maybe this program is reaching a state of critical mass with a good nucleus of juniors and seniors?

Jovan Haye: I wouldn't say it's taken over, but I would say that the majority of the starters this year will come from that class. That's just because most of us got good experience when we were younger. Most of us were redshirted-- only two people from our class didn't get redshirted. I guess we're just moving up the scale. It's our time now.


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