Football Media Day Coach/Player Quotes - DEFENSE

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MICHIGAN STATE FOOTBALL
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Football Media Day
Coach/Player Quotes - DEFENSE
Aug. 7, 2007
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Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi
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On the overall defense:
We just need to play more aggressive. They’ve got to make more plays. We’ve got to get the right guys on the field, and I think that’ll be part of it.
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It’s a team that’s going to play sound. It’s going to know what it’s doing. They’re going to be tough. And they’re going to run to the ball. I think you’re going to see guys running to the ball. I’d say that’s what they are, generalizing.
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We’re going to play the best 11 and again, that’s across the board, not just athletically. It’s athletically, mentally, physically, the whole thing. To make a great example, we’re not playing the 240-pound linebacker; we’re playing with Jon Misch because he does all the little things right and he cares. Attitude’s going to be a big thing.
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I think attitudes are contagious. You can either have a good attitude or a bad attitude, but we want those good attitudes to emulate throughout the football team and be contagious. And I think we’ve seen that. … It’s the team’s responsibility, it’s the defense’s responsibility to get everybody’s attitude going in the right direction. I think that’s something we coach everyday. We just don’t sit in meetings all day and talk about X and O’s. It’s about attitude and how you deal. If a bad play happens, do you put your head down and walk to the sideline? That’s all part of coaching. We’re going to be positive on the field. We’re going to get that guy to go the extra yard and that’s our job as coaches.
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On the defensive depth:
Looking yesterday, we’ve got some guys, I think, up front that can play. I really do. We’ve got some guys that were hurt that are back in. And obviously, when you bring your freshmen in, you kind of feel like there is more depth. You look and think, That guy’s got a chance. We’ll find out how they progress through the doubles but we’ve got more depth up front.
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On the similarities of all the defenses:
Well, obviously they play together; they play as a team. They play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They’re a tough defense; good defenses are going to be tough. When things are down, they’ll bow up.
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On installing a winning attitude:
First of all you don’t beat them down anymore. You try to pump them up and try to point out the positives that they’ve done. As a coach, you try to put them in a good position and teach them fundamentals so that they can be successful. I think that’s a huge key.
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Justin Kershaw has done a great job of being a guy that people look to right now up front.
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On Otis Wiley:
Otis Wiley, without question, is the guy. As a matter of fact, I called him out in a team meeting the other day about being a guy whose attitude is contagious. He’s always a happy guy. You can get on him and he’ll either laugh or smile and try to get better on the next down. He doesn’t take it all to heart and looking at a guy like that, he’s seasoned.Â
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Defensive Line Coach Ted Gill
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On the returning defensive linemen:
Justin Kershaw has been working to get himself better and Ervin Baldwin, he had some things we really wanted to work with him on and he did a good job there. And the other guy is O.G. [Ogemdi Nwagbuo] He’s really made some strides. And the guy I didn’t really get to work with during the spring because of an injury is Brandon Long. And Brandon shows progress; he’s worked in the off-season to get himself better. So I’ve been really pleased with that first group. And there are a couple of guys sprinkled in that second group that are coming around that I’m excited about.
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All in all, they’ve all worked to make themselves better and I’m really impressed with them.
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On Ervin Baldwin:
One of the things we really wanted Ervin to do was work on his improvement in the run game, defending the run, and also work with him on improving in the pass rush, his pass rush schemes. And he’s really done a good job in working to get himself better. I think he knows it’s his last year and one of the things he wanted to do is get himself to the point where he is going to be a lot better player than he was last year. So he’s done a good job of working to get to that point.
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Secondary Coach Harlon Barnett:
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On the secondary’s talent:
I’ve said it before publicly, and I feel we have three safeties as good as any in the country. Some teams may have one guy better, or even two guys. But I feel we have three solid guys that can contribute for us this year.
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On Junior Safety Otis Wiley:
Otis is the whole package. He’s a better person than he is a player. His parents have done a nice job. He walks the walk, he doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s a great, great kid.
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On Travis Key:
Travis does a great job. I feel like we have three of the best guys in the country. Travis is a hard worker with a tremendous attitude, he’s tough and he’s a good tackler. The only difference between Travis, Otis and Nehemiah (Warrick) is size. Everything else is very comparable and Travis will be a big contributor this year.
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On the secondary’s battle for playing time:
It’s close. We’re going to find a way to get the guys on the field, period. We try to get our best 11 on the field. We need to have Travis, Otis and Nehemiah on the field. We might need to rotate or slide guys around at times, but those are three of our better defensive football players. We want them to play as much as possible.
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On what he felt he inherited in the secondary when he came on staff:
Prior to watching tape, I heard stats about us giving up 30 touchdown passes. But as you watch them play, what stood out to me is that they are good tacklers in the secondary and they played hard. They showed they were tough and that’s something positive I took from watching the film.
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Linebackers Coach Mike Tressel
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On the competition for playing time at linebacker:
The competition is like I’ve never seen. I look at the middle, and everyone knows Kaleb Thornhill has been there. We have three other guys there that are legitimate Big Ten linebackers slugging it out for playing time. When you look at the outside spots, I think there are five guys that are brawling it out. SirDarean Adams is very athletic and Eric Gordon is a very good athlete too. How it’ll pan out, we’ll see. We have 23 practices in camp and every position is there to win, every position is there to lose. Let’s go.
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On Kaleb Thornhill:
He’s a great kid. He’s going to do everything possible for the Spartans. He’ll be a leader for us. He wants to lead by example, but he has an understanding that it’s hard to do that when you’re not on the field. He wants to do it. And that’s how he’s a leader. He doesn’t toot his own horn at all. You can’t ask for a better character kid.
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On Thornhill’s perfectionistic mentaility:
He is a perfectionist, and we’re working on that. Football is not a perfect sport. There are shades of gray. Especially with kids who want it bad, you’re OK. When kids are lackadaisical and lack focus, you have to bust their chops about mistakes. Kaleb is not like that. He is a perfectionist and we want him not to worry about the mistakes and worry about the outcome and make plays. He’s going to have a great senior year.
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On if MSU has NFL-caliber talent on defense:
We try to avoid talking about that right now. Everyone who plays here should believe they are an NFL player. They wouldn’t be recruited to Michigan State and have an opportunity to step on the field if, in some respect, they weren’t an NFL-caliber type player. Obviously, some stand out above others, but if you look at NFL rosters, there are smaller guys. It’s not all stereotypes. The play determines who the NFL guys are.
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On Tuesday’s first day of practice:
It was a good first day. There was a lot of carryover from the spring. The kids knew what they were doing without a doubt. They developed good habits over the summer, so that was really positive. We’re going to keep pushing them to pursue the ball like we do. We’re going to kick them in the behind a little bit to do the thing we want to do on defense, but it was a good first day of practice.
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On Eric Gordon:
Eric’s a guy that had a huge confidence jump this spring. He has some football sense. If he maintains that confidence in himself, he’ll make plays and do a great job for us this year.
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Junior Safety Otis Wiley
On excitement of new season:
I’m excited because it’s a new defense and it puts us in a better position to make plays than we were last year. We have Coach Duzzi (Narduzzi), Coach Barnett and Coach Tressel that all see eye-to-eye. We have a good secondary, linebackers that are coming back and our D-line is big. If we gel together we’ll be good.
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On getting back to tough-nosed defense:
We have some spurts sometimes in games where you see it, and sometimes you don’t. Now it’s just head-hunting football. We have to prove to the world that we can play against everybody. We have to play hard and hit hard. That’s going to be the expectations for the defense.
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On Coach Dantonio’s impact:
It was immediate. He came in and set goals and set expectations and team missions and we never really had that. As a whole, the team came in and during the first meeting we were shocked. Coach D came in not strict, but came in and said we have to get this done to get this program back on top. He had an immediate impact on players. Some players didn’t latch on quick, but now they are.
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What has you excited about this season?
Practice-wise, we have so much energy in practice where we never really had that. We had it, but as a team we come together for a conditioning test like yesterday morning where we had offense, defense everybody coming together lifting each other up. We really haven’t had that in the past, everybody on the same page. There’s just a lot of energy in practice, expectations, knowing that we have to get things done.
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What’s a realistic goal for this season?
I know we are going to have some ups and downs, but as a team we have to pull together to get through those ups and downs. The season will reflect how we come through in those down times.
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On the work ethic Coach Dantonio brings to the team:
Summer conditioning was the hardest by far since I’ve been here. Winter conditioning was hard and it’s not just hard physically, it’s mentally. They are training our minds to get ready for the football games. If we do get down we’ve got to come back and pull our bodies with our minds. We haven’t been tested like that in the past. He’s testing us mentally, physically and spiritually. So we just have to come together.
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More on Dantonio’s style:
He’s not messing around. Just like a father at home, he’s not messing around. He’s a father figure to everyone that needs that strength and discipline in their lives as a man or a young man growing up to be a man. It’s like a room full of brothers. We have big brothers and little brothers and we all need to learn from each other.
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Senior linebacker Kaleb Thornhill
On getting back to MSU’s defensive roots:
That’s what they are trying to instill in us with the new defense. They’re preaching to us on running to the ball and doing things correctly. This year everyone’s got a helmet on the ball and that’s definitely going to help us out in terms of swarming to the ball and making sure we bring down the ball carrier.
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Was Coach Dantonio’s impact immediate or gradual?
Definitely immediate. He came in right away and let us know he’s not going to take anything from anybody. He said he was going to weed out the weakness and he’s definitely done that. Those are powerful words and I think everybody’s opened their eyes and realized they better get on board or you are about to get let off.
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Are you excited about the season?
Yes I am. Obviously, it’s my last year so that adds more to that. I’m definitely looking forward to playing this 4-3 defense and being able to have three linebackers in the box stopping the run.
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On the seniors running out of time:
We’ve got to win and we’ve got to get this program back on board where it belongs. I think this is going to be the first step this year in terms of getting it done. The key is winning a lot of games and making it to a bowl game, and not just a little one, a big one.
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On the summer work:
The summer’s been very different. It’s been the most difficult summer I’ve ever been through in my career here. It’s definitely helped us get in better shape and allowed us to have our legs where they can go for a long period of time. We don’t have to condition in fall camp because of the rigorous training we went through in the summer.
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On the legacy of his father:
It’s definitely motivation. There’s no doubt in my mind. I think about it every time before I go out there. I carry his ring around from the national championship. It’s tough at times, obviously. It’s something I have to think about as a positive, and I know he’s with me. It’s going to be difficult obviously the first game, and even some practices. But my dad taught me to be tough and I know what he would want me to do in this situation. I can only think about what he wants me to do.
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Have you dedicated the season to him:
I think so, and my mom. She’s definitely been great through this whole process. It would have been a lot tougher without her, so she’s been a big part. Probably my whole family. I’ve definitely got a chip on my shoulder to go out there and do my best and make everybody proud.
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On the frustration of his injuries throughout the career:
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is. God had a plan for me. I’ve been banged up most of my career. If you don’t have that toughness, you are not going to make it through it. I’ve had some tough times, but you have to push through it. I know I’m going to have some tough times this season pushing through injuries. It’s something I’ve got to do. It’s my last year so I have to try to put it behind me and go and play as hard as I can and deal with what I have to deal with.Â
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Senior Safety Travis Key
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On playing for Coach Barnett:
I love the guy. He definitely knows how to relate to what’s going on with us players and teach us how to handle certain situations. He’s a former All-Big Ten player here so he likes to think he can still get out there with us and run around. He was a tough guy when he played and I think he’s trying to instill a lot of those things into us.
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On the new defensive scheme:
I wouldn’t say that the scheme itself is simpler but the way that the coaches are teaching us the system is a lot simpler. I’d say that’s the biggest difference. There’s a lot of focus on fundamentals.
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Junior Defensive End Brandon Long
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On what he focused on in the off-season:
My biggest thing in the off-season I think was my weight gain. I was a pretty small defensive end, especially for the Big Ten. I bumped my weight up to 252 pounds, so that was a big thing for me, while keeping my speed at the same time.
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On working with Coach Gill:
Coach Gill is a great guy. The best thing about Coach Gill is that he works on fundamentals. Yesterday we were working on our stance and our starts, which is the most elementary thing for a defensive lineman, but it’s most important and I think we’re going to benefit a lot from it.
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Junior Cornerback Kendall Davis-Clark
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On playing for Coach Barnett:
It’s been great; he’s a really good coach that really knows what he’s talking about. He likes to get involved with the drills but he’s not the kind of guy that will scream and yell. He gets his point across though.
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On being listed as the No. 1 cornerback on the depth chart:
That was real big for me because I had sat out my first year. It’s just been a blessing for me to be able and come back and play.Â
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On the differences in defensive strategy:
I think it’s a lot easier to understand and know where you are supposed to be. Basically it’s just hands-on defensive and if you know how to do that, you will be able to play.
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Redshirt Freshman Linebacker Jon Misch
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On his first year playing:
I’m just very excited to get out there and actually have the chance to play this year.
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On the chemistry of the linebacking core:
Our entire linebacker group gets along pretty well. You will see most of us hanging out even outside of the football world. We communicate well on the field. I think we really get along well.
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On the new-found toughness:
It is really weird actually. You can actually take somebody in January and compare them to who they are now, and they are completely different people. The toughness level has been bumped up so much since Coach Dantonio has taken over. We have so much more confidence in each other.
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On linebackers coach Mike Tressel:
Coach is absolutely a great guy. Being young probably does help, I really like that we can communicate well. He was a wrestler, and I was a wrestler in high school, so it’s kind of a bond we get together and talk about. It’s really cool actually.
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Senior Defensive End Ervin Baldwin
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On being excited for the season to start:
Right now we are getting ready for camp. We have been working hard since Coach D. and his staff came in here in January. We are ready to put on some pads and make it work.
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On the chemistry of the defensive line:
We have a lot of young guys but so far we have been gelling. We have been working hard, taking in the stuff coach has been teaching us. OG and Justin can both get the job done. As a whole unit, we are focused.
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On thriving on pressure:
I like having pressure on my back. I believe in myself. My parents always told me to believe in myself.
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On defensive line coach Ted Gill:
He is a fired up guy. Coach Gill has been around the ropes; he has been to the NFL. He is teaching us the little techniques. He gets us fired up so you can’t help but to go out and make plays.
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Senior Strong Safety Nehemiah Warrick
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On being in the secondary with Otis Wiley:
It is a great thing playing with Otis; he is a great communicator. He may see something I don’t see and communicate to me. I may see something he doesn’t and communicate it to him. We have a year experience under our belt, and I feel like last year was my first year in the boat. I learned a lot and it got me hungry for this season. There are a lot of things I had to work on in the off-season and I did. I have a whole new attitude coming into this year.
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On the secondary:
Right now, we are dogs. We are working hard. We have a nice secondary; we have two corners that have been here. We just have to be great communicators and shoot to the ball. That’s what makes a great defense.
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On secondary coach Harlon Barnett:
He brings nastiness. He wants us to go hard, no excuses. Straight to the ball, no excuses. Any type of dropped picks or play that we could have made, he is on us every play. He is pushing us to be great.
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Junior defensive tackle Justin Kershaw
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On moving to the inside of the line rather than playing outside:
I think there is overall more contact, but really it’s the same thing. You are more likely to get double-teamed on the inside.
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On differences this coaching staff has made to the defensive line:
We’re told to really play pass, and I think when you are told that you can be less timid. I’m not looking around to see what run plays I can get. I’m just starting off the ball trying to make something happen.
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On Coach Gill’s coaching style:
Coach Gill is really in-depth with things and he explains things very thoroughly to you. He has a very specific way of teaching and he tries to get out of your mind what you think is right. He really pushes how he wants things done and that really helps us out in the long run.
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Sophomore cornerback Ross Weaver
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On his excitement of returning from injury:
I’m very excited. I had to watch the whole season from the sidelines last year so I’m really excited to contribute to the team this year.
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On what’s it like playing for Coach Barnett:
It’s really an honor. Knowing that he went to school here at MSU and played the same position that I did, it is really an honor. It is really fun to play for him and I’ve learned a lot of things.
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On the importance of spring ball and getting to learn the new defense:
It was very important to me to get back into shape coming back off the injury. And I also had to get used to the new defense we were running, so it was very important to me. It was very competitive and fun.Â
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Sophomore defensive end Andrew Hawken
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On his position change from linebacker to defensive end:
Well, I don’t know how much of a move it is going to be. They have me right now still playing some linebacker, but they said if they need me then I’ll spend some time at defensive end. I spent a little time at defensive end in the spring. We had a special third-down defense where we had three lineman, and four linebackers, and then I would slide down to end then.
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On what he learned the most in his first season:
You have to come every day, and that you have to work every day. You can’t let up and have to go full speed all the time.
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On the mentality difference between playing linebacker and playing defensive end:
I think they are two completely different positions. Being linebacker you have the whole field before the play starts, and at end you are focusing on the guy across from you, and getting off the ball and just beating that one man in front of you. As a linebacker you have to worry about the pass, the run, and just finding the holes.
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Redshirt Freshman linebacker Eric Gordon
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On enrolling early to participate in spring ball last year (2006):
It helped me get acquainted with all of the players, and get the feel of college life, and what college workouts are like. It helped me adjust to the speed change and the size change.
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On working with Coach Tressel:
 I like it; he is very enthusiastic. He teaches us well, and is always trying to get us to be our best, and to work to our fullest potential and to trust ourselves.
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On what he’s looking most forward to about getting on the field:
Just playing. Being redshirted last season was tough. Sitting there watching the game from the stands, knowing that I’m out there practicing with those guys everyday, but I don’t get to go out there with them.
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Senior nose tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo
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On what he worked on most over the off-season to improve this year:
I have just been trying to work on everything, not just one thing in particular. I’m trying to get better at every aspect of the game. Speed, agility, everything is good. We’re trying to be better run stoppers, and better pass rushers. There isn’t one thing that we are focusing on; we’re just trying to get better
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On some of the differences this coaching staff has made to the defensive line:
Our focus is to be real quick up front. We have to be real athletic. We have Justin Kershaw moving to the defensive tackle; he has some athleticism. I feel our defensive line is real good.
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On Coach Gill’s coaching style:
He focuses on the little things. You have to do the little things before you can do anything else. Before you work on your pass rushing, you have to work on your footwork. Before you work on your line block ability, you have to work on your hand placement.