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Gold and Black Illustrated Volume 28, Digital 5

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 5 13 whether for the first time with the second-team de- fense or, for some, even bounced up to the first-team unit, but Bailey stressed one thing that should never waver: Effort and willingness to work. The rest, the nuance — being able to get tips from the offense's formation, being able to adjust based on a certain look, being able to check out of plays — and the physical maturation with age will come. But the desire to make plays, that should not have to be taught. Jeff Brohm stressed that after a practice, too, this spring, one that had the BTN cameras beady-eying every move of the head coach. So when he told his group, specifically referencing the defense, that "if the effort is like this, we're going to get our tails kicked in Game 1," he was trying to push the same message as Bailey did earlier in the spring. "They can't be starstruck. They can't not be fully ready to go when the lights come on. It has to be cranked up and ready to go," Brohm said after the spring when asked specifically about those comments. "Sometimes, that's on us as coaches to make sure we're getting our guys ready to go and sometimes maybe that's why we may have to act a little more boisterous than we'd like to. I think we have it in us, it's just they haven't done it yet. Game 1, if we don't show up ready to play, it'll be a long day." So there certainly were moments when the youth and inexperience showed up on defense this spring. But it wasn't all bad. As the spring progressed, there were young players who flashed potential, who showed, with more growth and ex- perience, they may be able to lead this defense to the next level. In time. Guys like redshirt freshman cornerbacks Dedrick Mack- ey and Kenneth Major, who eventually earned first-team reps, instead of getting them by default with the Da'Wan Hunte and Josh Okonye departures. Redshirt freshman ends Giovanni Reviere and Robert McWilliams flashed as potentially immediate playmakers. True freshman Jeff Marks showed signs of a young player who can impact off the edge, too. Sophomore Derrick Barnes, after playing as a rookie last season, seemed to make progress each practice with the first-team unit, playing alongside Bailey, who was yap- ping at him with tips nearly every snap. And those little moments, small steps of growth, were where co-defensive coordinator Nick Holt, the playcaller, saw progress. It wasn't as dramatic in every player as Holt would have hoped, but he also realizes what his defense is right now: comprised of 18- and 19-year-olds who "need to hurry up in the maturity process." "I want them to be great players as soon as possible," Holt said after the second-to-last practice of the spring. "We're not there yet, although I did see a lot of improve- ment, and that's all we can ask for is kids coming out here and getting better every day. Now, I'll say this: We need a great summer. As a whole football team, especially on defense because we're so young and we're going to play so many young guys, we need to have a great summer, really, starting in May and carrying through June and July and then have a great fall camp. We need to catch up. "They'll get the reps and they'll understand more of the big picture and schematically, they learned pretty well. We need to get bigger, stronger and faster. We need to get more explosive. We're young, and we're athletic. We've got some kids that have some talent. We just need to get them older and heavier, stronger and faster. Unfortunately, a lot of that is Father Time and nature. But we've got to speed up nature here because we've got so many young guys. "I like them. I like their attitude. They're very willing to learn, and they're good kids. They've got good work eth- ic. They're going to play hard. Now, we've just got to keep getting them stronger so we can do the things we want to do as far as being physical and dominating the line of scrimmage." Of the 22 players on the two-deep this spring, 13 were underclassmen, including seven freshmen and redshirt freshmen. But even of those upperclassmen, only four Tom Campbell Derrick Barnes played as a true freshman last season, but getting full-time first-team snaps at middle linebacker this spring sped up his growth.

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