Kendrick Haskins: How excited do you get for this time of year?
Vance Bedford: I’m always really excited for the start of practice. To get out there and get these young guys going, right now we have a lot fun. We have some depth for the first time. We have some competition for the first time, which gives us the opportunity to be a better football team. I’m excited about our defensive line, we are two deep for the first time since we’ve been here, and we have some freshmen that have a chance to be really good players.
K.H.: Is it fair to say that you don’t have to do as much patch work as you have in the past two seasons?
V.B.: We don’t, right now we’re really two deep across the board. We have competition up front, we have competition at linebacker. We’re still young, when you look at our linebacker core, the only guy who has played that position for two years right now is Daniel Brown, he’s playing outside linebacker. Preston Brown is playing middle linebacker, new position. We have two freshmen, first and second team at the weak inside linebacker. Backing up Preston Brown is another true freshman.
We’re young but we’re athletic. In the secondary I feel like we have competition for the first time, that makes practice a lot of fun. Now, if you don’t want to practice today, that’s okay, you can be on second team, or when the game starts, you and I can have Gatorade together on the sideline while that guy in front of you is playing.
K.H.: How does that competition make the players play better?
V.B.: Anytime you have competition at anything, it pushes you to excel.
K.H.: With so many true freshman ready to contribute, looking down the road, is the potential there for not just a big season, but a big run?
V.B.: You look at guys like B.J. Dubose who was a true freshman last year and played well, and right now he’s playing like a veteran. Lorenzo Mauldin was a true freshman and he played. Calvin Pryor was a true freshman and he played, Terell Floyd was a true freshman.
K.H.: How gratifying is it to see the growth of the program in the two plus years that you guys have been here?
V.B.: Well I think Santa Claus has been good to us. We have some great recruiters on this staff. They’ve done a tremendous job bringing in quality players and if we can continue to do that, the sky is the limit. We need to keep recruiting, and once we get them here, we have a great coaching staff, they can teach.
K.H.: How much do you enjoy the chess match aspect of playing mind games with the opposing quarterback, about disguising blitzes and bringing pressure?
V.B.: The biggest thing is that when you look at an opponent, we always want to be an aggressor on defense.
Our biggest thing since we’ve been here, we’ve given up too many big plays. Last year we cut big plays in half from our first year, and our statistics were a lot better. Hopefully this year we can cut that in half again, because we’re more athletic this year. When we have a guy miss a play, the other guy is fast enough and athletic enough to cover up for him, to hopefully get the ball on the ground and gives us a chance to play again.
K.H.: When you blitz, it puts some pressure on your secondary; who do you trust out there?
V.B.: An old coach told me a long time ago, his name was Floyd Peterson, he said, “When we blitz, and the little skinny guys out there get beat, I don’t blame it on the skinny guys, I blame the guys that are blitzing.” When you pressure, he’s on an island all by himself, go make something happen, go get the job done. What does that mean? Get to the quarterback, make him throw the ball fast, make him throw incomplete passes, hit the quarterback.
K.H.: Who are the leaders?
V.B.: When you’re a freshman and sophomore, junior team, majority of the time when you look across the country, your seniors are your leaders. Right now for example, on defense, we have two seniors, Daniel Brown, who has been in the program for three years, and Adrian Bushell, who has only been in the program for a year. It’s hard to say that those can step up and be the leaders.
Those are the things that we are still trying to develop in the program right now, because we are a junior, sophomore team. The leadership might have to come from some of our juniors.
K.H.: Daniel Brown seems to be in on just about every play, how has he progressed in the last year?
V.B.: He’s grown up quite a bit, he’s somewhat come out of his shell. When we first got here, you could say boo and he wouldn’t say anything. At least now, he’ll look at you and say hello to you. I think he’s headed in the right direction. He’s had a great offseason program (and) is healthy for the first time since he’s been here.
K.H.: Adrian Bushell showed up a few games into the season last year, but made an immediate impact. How important is he to what you want to do in the secondary?
V.B.: He needs to be a guy that we can count on, we can say, “that guy right there, you got that man, you’re by yourself, you have no help, safety lean this way, we’re going to double over here.” You need to have those types of guys – guys that cover a guy one on one, that means now, you can do different things coverage wise. You can double a guy here, because this guy is good enough to get that done. I go back to when I was at Florida, I had Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins, we could get that done. I think that Adrian Bushell has the potential to maybe do those things. He hasn’t done it yet, but potentially, he has that type of ability.
Kent Taylor is a sports anchor for WAVE 3. See more of his work at www.wave3.com or by tuning in to the NBC affiliate.