How was your first trip to the Manning Academy?
“It was a great experience. I got to learn from Peyton and Eli and those guys are unbelievable. Are they up tight or laid back? They’re more laid back, willing to help me to getter. They’re more like the goofy type. I had an opportunity to work with (FSU’s) Jameis Winston, (Baylor’s) Bryce Petty, and Cody Kessler from USC. Those are big time names. Just to get a chance to work out with the best players from around the country was a great experience.”
Which players have stood out in 7-on-7s this offseason?
“T.J. Thorpe has stood out big time. The guy runs great routes and he can really catch the football. He may not be 6-foot-2, but he’s an unbelievable player. Ryan Switzer, he’s always going to standout as that jitterbug. And T.J. Logan, we’ve had him out in the slot the some this summer, and he’s done well catching the football.”
Can you talk about the difference approaches by Blake Anderson and SethLittrell?
“Coach Anderson was a little more laid back. Coach Littrell he’s one of those hyper guys like coach Fedora. He’s got more swag and is more intense with the work. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with Blake, but Coach Littrell is the guy that will rip you if you do something wrong…and that really motivates us. We really need someone to get after us when we get lazy to get us back in order and ready.”
Which player on the defensive line has improved the most this offseason?
“I would say Justin Thomason. I feel like since he came in, he’s had something to prove as a smaller guy. But he works hard and has heart. He’s a younger guy, but he leads, not as a vocal leader, but by example.”
Which red-shirt freshman impressed you the most this spring?
“On the D-line, I’d say Nazair Jones. He’s a good pass rusher to begin with, but he’s put on weight and gotten stronger. He looks good all the way around.”
What's the one player that the average fan doesn't know about that could make a big splash this fall?
“One person I see day after day is Nazair Jones. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve seen since I’ve been here. He’s gone through a lot in his career, and I think it’s made him better day after day.”
What aspect of the defense do you think will surprise fans the most?
“We always know if you stop the run, then defending the pass will come much easier. When you aren’t stopping either one, and you’re off balance, it makes things difficult over the course of a game. If we can take of the run first, then focus on the pass, we’ll be perfectly fine.”
Has your transition from corner to safety gone smoothly?
“At first it wasn’t, during spring ball, and just playing one bowl game there, I was a little rusty. But, I felt after the end of spring ball I felt really comfortable with it.”
What has been the biggest factor motivating the defense in the offseason?
“We can finally grasp our potential. It’s exciting to have some buzz around our unit and the team. Amongst the guys in the locker room, there’s an excitement… The guys in the locker room, going out on Saturday’s, we didn’t do that in the past. Guys are really competing for playing time which should translate well.”
Who is the one player that the average fan doesn't know about that could make a big splash this Fall?
“Cayson Collins. Cayson more so because I think his athletic ability is really going to help us. He kind of reminds me of Darius [Lipford], he isn’t as big, but he can do a lot of the same things in third-down situations.”
How will you go about preparing for the season knowing that the competition will be focused on you in the return game?
“We get out on the field as a team twice a week. I try and get with the punters, and we have a little game, you catch a ball you have to hold on to it, and catch as many as you can, I’ve gotten up to six balls … Things like that to keep my hand-eye coordination in tune. You can’t really simulate anything to you get into a game. I feel like after the first couple of kicks, I’ll be fine.”
Why would anybody kick to you this year?
“Because people are stupid, man. I don’t know. All it takes is one to try me. I know every team we play thinks they have the best cover team in the country, and that I won’t do it to them. Teams are going to keep trying me, and that’s where they (touchdowns) are going to come from.”
How has working with Seth Littrell changed the passing game?
“Not too much. It’s still the same playbook. We’ve tweaked some routes, we’ve added some routes. It’s still the spread offense. I’d say the biggest difference is that we’re going to try and go a little faster this year. At times when we were in our Indy tempo it was still a little slower than the coaches wanted. I feel like that’s going to be one of the main differences. We’ve definitely done our conditioning this summer, I don’t think we’ll have a problem being out of shape or being tired, so we’ll be able to move a lot faster this year.”