Everybody seems to be really high on the defense and how far you all have come so far this spring. Where have you seen the biggest improvements as a part of that unit?
“I really think it’s been the effort. From an effort standpoint, the defense is getting better every day with that. That has been one of the biggest areas the coaches have stressed this offseason. We can always fix the X’s and O’s but if we can our effort to the highest point it can be, who’s to say we can’t be the best defense in the Big 12? Effort is key to accomplishing that.”
Going into last season and even back to last spring, the linebacking corps was pretty inexperienced with Alex Elkins, Caleb Lavey and you being a sophomore. Now it’s become a strength moving forward as one of the defense’s more experienced groups. How much leadership have you all taken on?
“Oh man, with us there are three leaders out there at all times because we all know what to do each play. As far as communication goes, we’re all on the same page. We know what each other is thinking. We can react to things a lot faster out there and we’re just on point.”
There is a lot of increased depth in the linebacking corps. What’s it been like to have a little more competition at the spots this time around?
“Competition is the best way to get better. If you have somebody on your heels trying to take your spot you’re going to bring it every day. The best way to get everything out of a player is by competition within the team.”
How about some of those younger linebackers? Who has impressed you?
“All of them. I’m impressed with each and every one of them. Every time we sit down and watch film, another guy is making a play out there. Even Jeremiah (Tshimanga), the high school kid, he’s already making plays out there. It’s all of them just competing against each other and wanting to get out there on the field; that hunger is driving them to become better players.”
Everyone knows Alex Elkins hasn’t played football for the longest time. How far has he come from this time last year to now?
“It’s coming easier to him. Last year was a question festival for him in our meetings but this year he’s capable of answering the questions before coach even asks them. This last year was all about experience for him.”
Obviously losing Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones on the line is a huge blow but a lot of talk has been about the increased depth on the defensive line, particularly in the the interior. How much has that increased reliability along the front line taken pressure of you and the other linebackers compared to your first two years?
“It’s been huge. It’s key for linebackers to be able to roam free if you’ve got those big hogs up there gobbling up blocks. Those guys up there have been working hard and it has honestly made a huge difference and been a huge relief off our shoulders.”