Northwestern Week: Coach Roy Q & A, Part 2

In the second edition of our Northwestern Q & A, Purple Reign publisher Roy Lamberton continues to address the Wildcats defense, and the prospect of a 3-4 set.

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Obviously Northwestern had some problems stopping people last year. Was the switch to some 3-4 and some 3-3-5 to compliment the conventional 4-3 something made in an effort to go back to the drawing board and use some creativity to try to fix the defense?


Everybody complained. The basic critique of the team last year was that the defense was just lame. Walker's explanation for it was that they had so many freshmen playing. When Pat Durr went down they didn't have many seniors. Across the front they were all freshmen and sophomores. In  many cases they were starting for the first time. We had Dwayne Missouri two years ago. We had some good players, but when they all graduated there was one guy left and that was Pat Durr. Air Force took care of Pat Durr on the sixth play last year. They cut his knees out on the first play of the season and he had an ACL and an MCL after six plays last year. He is the glue on the front of the defense. He was the guy with all the experience. So they ran in Szymul. They ran in different people all week and never could figure it out.


They are going to be more stable. I would suspect that the front seven, whoever is there, is going to be more stable. They are going to move around. They have more wrinkles up their sleeves than they are going to give away in the preseason.


The other big news on defense is they brought Ohio's Mr. football over to play right corner. So we have Jeff Backes playing corner and Marquice Cole playing the other corner. They are also using Herschel Henderson at right corner, so they are rotating the corners.


Last season a big problem for them was that they could not get a pass rush of any sort. Do you foresee an improvement this year?


That is why you see the big guys coming in. You can finesse around people or you can bulldoze people. Defensive ends who can finesse, there are not a lot of them. Howard is probably the closest thing (Northwestern has). There was a big complaint that Howard never got in (and got a sack). He had two sacks in the spring game, going against the best of the tackles, though Zach Strief was playing left tackle instead of right tackle.


The other big thing would be Louis Ayeni and Torri Stuckey, they both will be playing the right side safety. The only other thing that is of interest in the defensive backfield is that four of the six fastest kids on the team are playing d-back. Stuckey is a running back and so is Backes and they moved them to the right side (of the defensive backfield).


Did they just feel they were weak in the secondary, so they wanted to move Backes there?


They wanted speed and they wanted Backes on the field. Backes is a running back and he was not going to beat Jason Wright and I think he would have a hard time beating Noah Herron.


So they wanted him to get him on the field because he is fast and he is a football player. The thought was, ‘well, let's make him a cornerback because he has got the speed.' People do not remember that when he was in high school, he played safety. He had seven interceptions at safety in high school. He knows how to get the ball and he knows what to do with it once he catches. He said that if they won't give him the ball to score on offense he will just have to take the ball to score on defense. He has picked it up really well.


Backes is one of the fastest guys on the team. Even if he makes a mistake he has got the speed to recover from it. They are going to weigh Henderson's experience and not quite as fast against Backes's speed. Every game Backes plays he is going to learn more. He is a very smart kid, has a very good football sense.


What I see about that defense from last year to this year to this year is last year they just went no where, didn't do anything. This year they are doing so many things. If you send a kid out to block some guy, he may not be there. They have so many looks that they can use, I think they are going to be a lot better.


What makes me feel good about the D-backs, is when Jerry Brown was coaching with Gary Barnett he had the best defensive secondary in the Big Ten. He has the speed again. Don't bet on the 40-41 games this year. I think they are going to be a lot closer this year.

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