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Muschamp Opines Pre-Spring Game

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I speak coach. Happy to translate for you.

As always, all of this stuff is freely and publically available on Texassports.com.

Will Muschamp:

On what he expects out of the defense on Sunday: Any time you walk on the field, you want to compete and play well. We're looking to shut the offense out. Our kids need to play hard and execute what we're going to do because we're not going to do a whole lot. It'll be the first time for a lot of these kids to line up in this stadium, so it will be an exciting time for them.

Vanilla packages, minimal complexity, not much blitzing, working individual technique. Stating that they want to shut the offense out is refreshing to say the least. Most coaches are content with "we hope to compete" babble. I love the attitude it conveys.

On if he thinks the leadership from last year's team can carry over to the 2009 team: There's no question. We've had a couple guys that have stepped up throughout the spring in Sergio Kindle, Roddrick Muckelroy and Earl Thomas. Those are three guys we have identified that have had that every day. We certainly had great leadership last year. We need to have those guys continue to push forward. We had a great post-spring workout session, we had a great summer last year and that's going to be critical for us again.

Interesting how Sergio Kindle has gone from perceived malcontent to team leader with personal growth and maturation and a coordinator who can connect with him. Each reciprocating the other, I'd imagine.

On sophomore DB Earl Thomas' spring performance: I think that everybody's different, and Earl as a young player had a really good spring last year. I think he's had a good spring this year, but we need to have more guys like him that have that lunch-pail attitude to come out and work hard every day, that have the consistency in performance of playing physical football every day. It's not something you just flip on and off. He's an intense competitor, he has a good, competitive edge about him and we need more guys like him.

Edge. Physical. Consistency. Not Beasley's hallmarks, eh? This is why we currently have a two year starter in Deon Beasley running as our fourth cornerback and a gifted athlete like Ben Wells sitting at third string safety. If you can't play with an edge - mentally and physically - find a comfortable place to sit.

On where the defense needs to improve: We need to get better up front, that's the bottom line. We need to have more effective rushers other than Sergio (Kindle), and we need to get better inside up front. We've got to continue to build depth, which is going to have to be with some freshmen next fall so they need to get ready. We're not where we need to be. We were okay in the first seven practices. I think as a defense we made some strides in the eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th practice, but we're not where we need to be, especially at that position.

DT is a big problem. Kheeston Randall is still very young, Alexander is subpar, Wilcoxon is a ghost. If he's talking about freshmen getting ready, that speaks volumes. Houston is good to go, but a #2 DT hasn't stepped up and we lack any reliable depth.

On senior DT Ben Alexander: Throughout the season we're going to face some two-back run teams and he certainly fits in well there. He plays the run very well, he does a good job of eating two blocks and he understands his role. All the good teams I've been a part of have guys like that, that understand their role.

When a coach talks about a weakness in a team and then remarks that a 5th year senior at that position "knows his role" you can disregard most of the complimentary fluff surrounding it. Ben Alexander may stop a gap and demand a double against our schemes, but he won't be that useful against real running teams. Whether in Stillwater or in a BCS bowl. If your goal is to manhandle Wyoming, I'm sure you'll throw in it my face when he gets a tfl and a pressure against a fat kid from Laramie.

On freshman DE Alex Okafor: Alex is a guy that's got some natural pass rush ability. He's a good athlete, he can play in space, he's a very smart kid, he's learned well in the time he's played here, but he's one of those guys that hasn't lined up in this stadium, hasn't lined up in front of a lot of people, so I'm looking forward seeing him competing on Sunday.

Translation: We like Alex. We'll find out if he's ready for prime time soon enough. Freshmen can lose their minds.

On where the secondary is compared to this point last year: We're light years ahead of where we were, obviously, because of experience. We've got a lot of competition back there, which is the best motivator. We've just got to have some guys continue to separate themselves from the pack and make those game-finishing plays.

There are only two ways to introduce complexity into your defense: your front (25%) and your coverages (75%). If you don't trust your secondary, you better stay vanilla with both. Last year the focus was on not giving up the big play. Now that the secondary is a team strength, you're going to see increasing levels of complexity posed to the offense and an attempt to make plays rather than react to them. That's the primary way we'll increase our turnovers from last year.

On who the current starters are in the secondary: We've been kind of by committee day by day, based on the production from the previous day. Right now at corner, Chykie (Brown) and Aaron Williams have done a good job. Aaron and Earl (Thomas) have both played the nickel. I don't feel differently one way or the other about one or the other. Curtis (Brown) and Deon (Beasley) are our third and fourth corners at this point. Blake (Gideon) and Christian (Scott) and Earl have all played the safety position, and Nolan Brewster has had a really good spring and Ben Wells is coming along. We really feel pretty comfortable about our depth at that position and the quality of players that we've got.

Nolan Brewster coming on is nice to hear. I'd pegged the guy for a transfer to Gopher country after seeing him in limited action. Christian Scott, Aaron Williams, Earl Thomas, and Chykie Brown are really the key drivers to our base nickel. Having them on the field together is worth an extra turnover a game even without more schematic complexity. You've got guys who will strike and can run.

On senior DT Ben Alexander's role on the defense: We would play him more in the early down situations and he understands that. He's gotten his weight under 300 pounds, he's moving a lot better, he's always had good punch and power at the point of attack. Everybody's got their role within what we do and he certainly has his role on this football team.

See role player comment above.

That Mad Dog allowed a 5-10 athlete to weigh 315+ is just extraordinary. The passivity of our S&C program in how each athlete is monitored, evaluated, and coached stands in direct contrast to our basketball program. Yes, I understand that we're talking 85 athletes vs 13, but it's not as if customization is impossible when you have multiple assistant S&C coaches and more resources than God. You can at least offer a player minimal expectations and benchmarks beyond Eat N Bench.

On the defensive tackle position: Right now we're playing with what we've got and we need to be more consistent up front and play better up front. We're not where we need to be, there's no question about that after 13 days. I don't think it's a lack of effort, it's more of a lack of consistency in what we're trying to do and I think we can get it out of them. I think the ability is there. I am very concerned about the depth. We're one injury away from a tough time in there. We just need to make sure we keep those guys healthy, but yet still get the work and the effort we need inside.

Well, that was rather to the point.

"We're playing with what we got." A statement of dissatisfaction and a reference to the incoming freshmen. Muschamp wants somebody - anybody - to give him 40 good snaps a game alongside Houston.

On if the staff is looking to move anyone to defensive tackle: Not at this point. I think the ability is there and I think the talent is there, we've just got to get more out of them and that's on us as coaches. It goes back to consistency and performance. We show some good things at times, we just don't do it enough. We've got to improve our pad level, improve our strike and improve our play-making ability at that position.

Uh, who would we move? No tweener ends like Aaron Lewis or Lamarr Houston to be found. Scan the roster. Reporters.

We'll sink or swim against the big boys on our DT play. Tinkering with a 3-3-5 may be in the cards, but that formation would get crushed with our personnel if we faced a real downhill running team.

Your thoughts?