Give us a few comments on how things have started off so far coaching the defensive backs and we'll go from there.
COACH WILSON: I've had two days, I've had two opportunities to work with the secondary. I'm really excited about it, one. Two, extremely talented group, both young and old. I feel real comfortable about the young men we have on the outside.
Just to name a few, B.J. Lowery and Micah Hyde, and then you have Greg Castillo who has been around but is doing some nice things for us and then Jordan Lomax, newcomer, who is having a really good spring thus far.
And then on the back end, you have Tanner Miller, who had a really good year last year and he's doing a nice job again. It's kind of that senior leader for us, although he's going to be a junior on that back hash.
And then we are working with Nico Law. Nico is extremely talented, still learning the game but he's going to be a nice player for us. John Lowdermilk we moved back on the hash again and he's really comfortable back there and with Tommy Donatell and Collin Sleeper; we feel we have a good group of safeties, also.
You recruited Jordan and Nico, as well. Just talk about their development and what you've seen from them.
COACH WILSON: Again, primarily last year, they were just special teams guys for us. They had an opportunity to learn a little bit about the system, so it's still new to them.
But just working with those two, they are really, really talented. Jordan, it's more confidence right now, but he has the ability and Nico is not lacking confidence. We just have to let Nico know that you don't know everything just yet.
He's a football player. He wants to learn. He's gung ho. We have to turn him down a little bit, which is okay. You would rather turn a guy down than have to turn him up. So those two are really coming along, and as mentioned, they come up and see me, they want to learn. They will come and watch film and they will ask questions. So excited about those two.
There have been so many changes on the staff in the off‑season; what's it been like and what's the adjustment been like?
COACH WILSON: It's been good. I've had opportunities ‑‑ I played in the secondary. My first collegiate job was in the secondary, so that's not really new to me. A young man in LeVar Woods that's played the position and knows it. He's going to grow and he's growing as a young coach and he's doing a fine job.
And Reese Morgan, he's a coach, he's a teacher, and it's just a matter of coming over and earning will the system. So things are going well and Phil is doing a great job of putting it all together.
We are really blending very well back there.
Do all of the moves surprise you at all?
COACH WILSON: In this business nothing really surprises you and there's an ultimate plan and right now that's what it is.
Are the defensive players having to learn all kind of new terminology or are you pretty much set?
COACH WILSON: We have not really changed much. We may tweak a few things here and there. We may play a different technique here and there but for the most part the terminology and the system is the same.
Do you see a more aggressive style, or does the style change in some way?
COACH WILSON: What we have done in the back end, early on in spring, we real will he focused on footwork and man techniques and those things. So we are really working hard and we'll stretch that more this spring so we are more comfortable with it, and we'll get a feel with whether or not we can play that type of defense or not.
Perhaps more press?
COACH WILSON: If they like it ‑‑ they like it. And again, what we are doing is trying to teach them. I’m a firm believer in teaching them every technique and let them play the technique that they feel the most comfortable with.
If they did that, what could that do for your defense ‑‑
COACH WILSON: Probably do a lot of things up front ‑‑ more so, as I mentioned we have four solid corners that can do a few different things. Some guys like to press and some like to play off. We are giving them an opportunity to do those things. Right now they are enjoying it and it allows us as a coaching staff to sit back and say, hey, maybe we can do this, maybe we can do that, those type of things.
Torrey Campbell is a two‑sport athlete. What adjustments do you have to make to accommodate an athlete that makes the decision to do two sports?
COACH WILSON: He understands when it's spring practice, he's with spring practice. During the winter it's easier for him to go on the indoor track because it's not, spring or football‑wise, not much of a commitment. But right now he's involved with spring football and when that's over he'll get more involved with track.
More speed at linebacker, does that give you more flexibility?
COACH WILSON: Yes, that's kind of been our philosophy the last couple of years, as you noticed, in their body types and at that time we are looking for maybe a big safety that couldn't play on the hash, but was physical, physical enough and big enough; Chris Kirk, most people would not have taken Chris at 195 but he's a tremendous athlete and explosive and physical.
That allows us to keep those guys in at certain times but again we are starting to see that young secondary that, that young talent where we may be able to do a couple of things in that back end.
B.J. Lowery was able to play with the cast; what do you see out of him?
COACH WILSON: He's tremendous, he has great feet, great hips and with that hand healing, he's able to use it a lot more in our press technique. B.J. is ‑‑ I'm really excited about him. He's going to be a tremendous football player for us. He's that guy who can press a guy and run with him and break all of the different routes. I'm excited about BJ.
He didn’t have a lot of offers coming out of Ohio. How do you explain that?
COACH WILSON: Sometimes you get caught in the numbers game. Coming from that State of Ohio is a lot of good football players and he may have been lost in the shuffle. Thank goodness; because he really can play the game of football.
The last two years, the strength and return on this defense has been up front on the line and now it looks like the returners are more experienced linebackers and defensive back positions. How does that change the makeup of the defense and what you hope to do?
COACH WILSON: Again we are going to stick with our base defense but we will, again, for those young guys, we are going to have to do some things a little differently, as having the talent we have in the back end and especially with the back seven. I think we'll be able to do those type of things to take some of the heat off some of those guys up front.
Does it make this transition easier with Phil as the D‑Coordinator because you don't have to get a new guy?
COACH WILSON: Probably more so for the young men than it is us. Again in this business, you never know who you are going to be dealing with or where you end up. So for the young men, again, we talk about the youth we have in our defense, it's good that they see familiar faces and the same system pretty much.
Micah entering his third year as a starter at corner; what do you see out of him?
COACH WILSON: Mcah is kind of a quiet leader. He doesn't say much, leads by example. But the old commercial with E.F. Hutton, when he speaks, they listen. I'm excited about Micah, again, because he knows ‑‑ he's smart. Very intelligent young man. Does a great job. It may be ‑‑ probably his best asset are his feet. He has really good feet. Studies the game. Has a lot of respect from his teammates.
As far as special teams goes, I know the last couple of years haven't been as strong as you want them, what do you look for this year as you put together the units?
COACH WILSON: Again, the last couple of years, we have had to pull a lot of young guys in, and that's really not an excuse. We as a staff have to continue to do a better job of preparation and getting these guys ready to play. That's the bottom line.
We have a number of young men that are extremely talented that can help us and we are really looking forward, obviously, to having much better units out there on the field.
Who is the fastest defensive back?
COACH WILSON: Torrey can go, Torrey Campbell runs very well. Jordan Lomax was a track star when he was in high school. I would probably say Torrey right now, and B.J.
B.J. is fast but he's so smooth, you don't see how fast, if that makes sense, he's just so fluid, that you don't see how fast he is. But he has very good recovery speed.
Sounds like you have pretty high expectations for B.J. coming into the season?
COACH WILSON: Yeah, and all of them but B.J. especially, because as we mentioned earlier with the injury, it was kind of a setback but he is an extremely talented young man.
Again with his ability, we'll be able to do some things out there where you could possibly lock him down on a guy and do some other things on the back end.
Who is your most physical defender right now?
COACH WILSON: Probably Nico Law. He's extremely physical. Out of control a little bit but he's physical. Collin Sleeper is a very physical young man.
And Tanner has become ‑‑ the more confident Tanner Miller has become on that back half. You watch him in the beginning of last year and you watch him towards the end in the run game, that half‑safety now, he's showing up in the run game and feeling much better about it. He's becoming more of a physical player. Nico, everything he wants to do, he just wants to rip your head off. We had to tell him, we have to play controlled violence.
Do you think Nico has that attitude that could help develop the defense as a whole?
COACH WILSON: You saw in the kicking game when we first let him run down on kickoffs, he brought that energy. True story, he didn't realize how good he was until he got double teamed a couple of times and he got ear‑holed, and he realized, Nico, other people watch film.
He brought that energy to our kicking game, and I think he'll do the same in our defense.
Will Ruben make a defensive back and will he play a special teams role right away?
COACH WILSON: With a body type like that, you hope he does. When I was a linebacker coach, I was going to take him but now that I'm in the secondary, we want to keep him on the hash, if that makes sense.
Sleeper, how is he doing?
COACH WILSON: He's good. We visit once a week. We told him, make sure we get in and visit at least once a week and make sure he's on point, and he is. He's doing well. We have three guys at that strong safety position that you feel comfortable with.
Obviously you like to give Nico a little bit more since he's a younger of the three and give him an opportunity to learn. But there's three good, solid players back there.
You said that the signature is the cushion, and that's why the press coverage; how much will that be there this fall? Is that one of the changes that maybe you see going away?
COACH WILSON: Again, we feel with the talent that we have, we can do ‑‑ we can close that cushion down and that's something we have been working on in the winter and right now during spring practice.
We have talked about aligning a little closer; trust the technique; trust yourselves. That's what we talk about, trust yourselves, trust your ability and we'll teach you technique, but trust yourselves. If they can do that, we'll be fine.
Is it more nickel, dime, are these guys physical enough that they can do that?
COACH WILSON: Again, it's still early in the spring, just watching the last two practices, we'll find out a little bit more today with the pads on. Everybody can run. Everybody looks good when we are not in pads.
But we'll get a little better feel today, but again, we are at that point where if these guys continue to progress like they are, we'll be able to do ‑‑ have that nickel package and have a steady nickel package and have a steady dime package because we feel good the guys in coverage.
Returning out of that group?
COACH WILSON: We had B.J. back there, not learning, but refreshing, working on punt returns. We have Torrey back there working a little bit because another track guy. Mike has always been back there. Out of that group, those are the three that we feel have an opportunity to be return guys for us.
Are there some yards in the return game that maybe you didn’t get last year?
COACH WILSON: A lot had to do with the punt game, the way it changed; you get these rugby punters and their line driving. What you don't want is the ball rolling, but it's hard to get into a decent return game as much as three or four years ago.
So we are still continuing to work on those techniques and then our main purpose is to keep that ball off the ground, field it and get what we can, or don't get the negative yards with that rolling around.