Coach Speak: Mike Cox on Donald Butler

After watching his defense get steamrolled in last season's playoffs, GM A.J. Smith added a physical presence to his defensive front seven by drafting ILB Donald Butler. What does the Huskie hero bring to the table? To find out, we check in with University of Washington linebackers coach Mike Cox.

The San Diego Chargers traded up in the third round of this year's NFL Draft to pick LB Donald Butler. The stalwart defender played his way onto San Diego's radar with a dominant career at the University of Washington, where in four seasons he racked up 235 tackles and five forced fumbles.

He will fight for time in a rotation that will include Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler. He'll also factor in heavily on special teams, where he will help offset the offseason loss of Kassim Osgood.

For more on Butler, we turn to UW linebackers coach Mike Cox.

LaShana Marshburn: What was it like to coach Donald?

Mike Cox: Donald is a very smart, physical linebacker. When I first got to the University of Washington I hadn't really heard of Donald and after being around him for the first couple weeks I was like, "Wow, this is really a special kid."

LM: Did you see anyone from the Chargers scouting Donald before the draft?

MC: Yeah, I had I talked to one of their scouts at length about him, but none of the coaches or anything like that. Some of the other teams I talked to other personnel department people, but yes, there was a scout I had spoken to [from San Diego].

LM: How did your program prepare him for success in the Big Leagues?

MC: I think he was very fortunate that our system was an NFL-style system and I think that people saw that he was very versatile when he was there. He did a lot of things and he played a lot of different defenses. I think that was something that prepared him for this moment and I think he's well prepared not only physically, but mentally also.

  LM: Is there one game or one play that stands out to you?

MC: Early in the season we played USC and he made three or four unbelievable plays against them that was just like, "Wow, this guy is special." He has special qualities about him. There are a couple particular plays he made -- an interception, a fourth-and-short play, etc. -- and he just made some special plays that he started to build upon and played the rest of the season in that fashion. He was a big playmaker and as smart as he was with all that ability, things started to come together right after those plays.

LM: How do you see Donald fitting into San Diego's 3-4 defense?

  MC: I think [his role in our defense] would be a similar position to middle linebacker. I know San Diego's uses a 3-4 system and he's about 250 pounds right now, so he's got a good size and good strength. He's that physical inside linebacker you're looking for and he has really good coverage ability, so I think he can play in any system, which will allow his career to continue.

LM: How will Donald adapt to life as a pro football player?

MC: You know a lot of guys, once you put a couple of dollars in their pockets their work ethic kind of ceases, but I don't see that with Donald. He has a lot of pride in playing well and doing well is very important to him. He'll work out until he achieves the greatness that he wants. I think San Diego did a great job; he's a great pick and I think he will be successful for them.

  LM: Where does he need to keep improving?

MC: He has all the tangibles to make it in the NFL. The key to me was how hard he played all that time and questioning those types of things. I think if he gets in the situation where he plays with consistency he will last a very long time in the NFL.

What kind of impact will Butler have this season? Discuss in the message boards.

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