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Q&A with co-defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix

Blue Raider defense focuses on effort and toughness this spring

April 3, 2014 · @MTAthletics

THE DEFENSE HAS MADE STEADY IMPROVEMENT EACH OF THE PAST TWO YEARS. WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY TO THE TURNAROUND?

I think it's our attitude. These young men put a lot of pride into their performance. Our staff has brought tremendous knowledge and teaching tools, where these guys can go out and execute and play fast.

THE DEFENSE HAS PLAYED WITH MUCH MORE TOUGHNESS SINCE YOU ARRIVED. HOW HAVE YOU GONE ABOUT CHANGING THAT?

A lot of that starts with the head coach (Rick Stockstill). He's a tough guy and demands a tough brand of football. We try to form our identity every time we go out. Ultimately, we can't play for the young men. We can put them in the position to be successful. We look for toughness as a characteristic when we are recruiting.

YOUR UNIT RANKED 5TH NATIONALLY IN TURNOVERS GAINED AND 17TH IN RED ZONE DEFENSE LAST YEAR. WHAT ATTRIBUTED TO THOSE NUMBERS?

It was a major point of emphasis. We play with a tough style, a tough brand of football. When you play violent and tough, you get those opportunities. More importantly, our secondary has gotten a lot better. There are a lot of positives that you can build on. The red zone is one of them. We take a lot of pride in trying to force teams to field goals.

YOU HAVE TWO ALL-AMERICA CANDIDATES ON DEFENSE IN SAFETY KEVIN BYARD AND LINEBACKER T.T. BARBER. WHAT MAKES EACH OF THEM SPECIAL AND WHAT DO THEY BRING TO THE DEFENSE?

The thing that makes them special is their work ethic. They practice every day like it's a game. They practice every play like it is fourth and one. They try to perfect their craft. Not only that, they are excellent student-athletes. They try to be the best on and off the field. Those guys that have those characteristics have more success on the field.

YOU RETURN THREE STARTERS UP FRONT BUT YOU LOST A SOLID PLAYER IN JIMMY STATEN. ASSESS THE GUYS UP FRONT AND THE POSITION AS A WHOLE.

We've had a lot of guys that have played for us. Shubert Bastien has had his best camp so far. The guys inside like Jimal McBride and Shaquille Huff continue to get better. We have some guys that are missing spring, but will help us in the fall.

THE LINEBACKER POSITION HAS REALLY SOLIDIFIED OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS AND IT APPEARS TO BE STRONG AGAIN IN 2014. GIVE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE POSITION AND WHICH NEWCOMERS WE MAY BE HEARING A LOT FROM IN 2014.

You will hear a lot about James Roberson. Anfornee Stewart is going to make a big impact. Quay Watt will be a big factor this season. All of our guys are going to make an impact. We have the ability to rotate guys in and out and that will help us put pressure on the opposition.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO SEE IN SATURDAY'S SCRIMMAGE FROM THE DEFENSE?

I would like to see a lot of effort, toughness and togetherness. I want to see guy straining their bodies to play as one. We are not trying to be very schematic. We are trying to be basic and let the guys go out and play. The biggest thing we are looking for is effort.

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