Jeremy Tyler has seen things from a bit of a different view. After progressing steadily during his freshman season of 2013, culminating with a start against Iowa State in the season finale, he leveled off some in 2014, seeing less playing time. He bounced back in the latter half of the 2015 season, and is now primed to have a bigger impact in his final year.
"You have adversity in life so it helped me learn how to deal with certain things when they don't go your way," he said of the downturn in playing time. "As a 17-year old kid you aren't really sure what's going on. At that point I had to keep working and find my way. Now I'm feeling comfortable and trying to build team chemistry."
Tyler is listed as the starter at bandit during spring drills, and is also a special teams ace, excelling on the kick coverage teams. He's eyeing personal improvement there while also hoping to solidify things on the back end of the defense, despite the lack of experience at cornerback.
"As a competitor, it starts with us in the back end," he said while acknowledging the perceived strength of the defense lies up front at this point. " You feel like you can get better at everything you can do, and become a better player and work on your craft."
Dravon Askew-Henry is a proven performer at free safety, so it's natural to assume that he would become a more vibrant leader this year. Even with all that game experience under his belt, though, he admitted things felt odd during the first couple sessions of the spring.
"I don't think it puts pressure on me, because we have really good players behind guys like K.J. Dillon and Karl Joseph. They have played and are ready to step in. The first day it was kind of awkward [without Karl and K.J.], but we have to move on. We have to get ready for this season. I do think I can step up to be that vocal leader, but I also want to lead by action."
As the signal caller in the defensive secondary, and the guy that has on-field responsibility for making sure everyone in front of him is lined up correctly, Askew-Henry does have more on his plate than many others. In addition to those duties, there's filling an assigned alley against the run, pass coverage, making proper reads and adjustments – all of which combine to make the position a mental challenge as well as a physical one. It's the marrying of the two – and making sure that everyone else sees and reads what he sees, that Askew-Henry believes is the most important aspect of his job.
"I would say communication is the toughest and the most important thing. If that goes wrong, it will be all messed up."
One of the ways in which new safeties coach Matt Caponi is building that communication is via written tests, which evaluate each player on formation recognition and their responses to each. In the video above, Askew-Henry describes that process and reveals the early results that he and his teammates achieved.