Mo Hurst is already feeling comfortable in Don Brown's defense. [Upchurch]
I walked up to Hurst at the same time as John U. Bacon, who made sure to point out that while both Hurst and I took his class, the former was in the front row every day while I was a back-row student. Thanks, Bacs. All questions are from me or Bacon except for the pair of "talk abouts" towards the end.
JUB: How fast did it go?
"It's fast. It feels like we just started all together—it's just crazy to think that we have so many seniors on our team right now. We've kind of been through it all, the ups and downs."
JUB: The ups and downs, from 5-7 to last year and all the rest. Those are two years you're never really going to forget.
"I think it helps us a lot, knowing how bad it sucked to lose, how bad it sucked to have a poor record, learning what we have to do to win. Those things are just going to help us this year."
JUB: Do you have to educate the freshmen as to what the bottom looks like?
"I don't know. I'm sure they're coming in, like, they're just trying to play. I don't think they're focusing too much on where we were previously, I think they're just excited for where we are currently. A ten-win team, I think they're really excited about that. It's the culture that they're brought into as opposed to ours, we were brought into a losing season—they were just brought into a winning culture so that's pretty much all they're going to know while they're here. Anything other than that would be a letdown for them. For us, we know what it's like to be..."
JUB: I interviewed a bunch of guys for the afterword of the Endzone book that comes out in the fall. Jake [Butt] said "we were working hard before, but we had no idea what hard work was." The four-hour practices, all the madness, that was a quantum leap, it sounds like.
"The biggest thing is just knowing you want you win. You always try to win everything. That's kind of what Harbaugh brings."
JUB: Trying to win lunch...
"(Laughs) Yeah. Just win everything. It's competing, it's the little things, it's every day, just finding new ways for us to compete."
JUB: What's the most surprising competition so far?
"I mean, he just had us race during spring ball. We'll do speed groups, we'll compete and race like midway through practice, see who's the fastest player, who's faster than the other person. I think that's the biggest thing. He even does that with the campers, with everyone."
MGoQuestion: Who's the fastest D-lineman?
"Probably Chris [Wormley]. He can move."
MGoQuestion: When you walk into that room and you've got eight, ten guys who can start, how does that affect your mindset?
"I think it helps. It makes you want to compete even more. If you're going to have to compete to play, you're going to have to earn your spot, because if you're not working hard, there's another person who can play instead of you. It really helps. We always try to coach each other up, and we're not going to put someone else down just for the other person to rise up, that's not who we've been as a group. If you want to work, then you're going to play, that's how it's always been. That's how we've done it, and that's why we've rotated so much. Everyone's earned the right to play."
MGoQuestion: Towards the end of last year when injuries started piling up you kind of got thrown into the fire, playing a little bit of nose. What did you get out of having to do that?
"It wasn't too bad. I've played nose my first two years here. This spring was my first time not really playing nose but I still was there sometimes, so it wasn't a big surprise to go back to playing nose. I think it was a little bit different that we were in a 3-4 front as opposed to a 4-3, so that was a little bit new for me, playing a zero [technique] in a 3-4. But, I mean, I've been ready, we've been rotating so much, there's games where some players that may not have started will play more plays than the starters. That's how it's always been for our group."
MGoQuestion: What's the biggest adjustment for you going from Durkin's defense to having Don Brown in charge?
"I don't think it's really been too much of a transition. I think we're back to where we feel comfortable in a 4-3 attacking front. We're just really going to be able to get after. That's what we were all recruited to play, all of us currently rotating on the D-line, we were recruited to play in a 4-3, like Worm, Taco, all of them, we were all recruited to play in this type of defense. I think it helps out a little bit more, it's a little better fit for us, and it's something that we do really well."
JUB: So who's more intense, Harbaugh or Brown?
"I don't know, I think they complement one another. (laughs) I mean, obviously Coach Harbaugh is running more of the offensive stuff, Coach Brown's on the defense screaming. I guess it's both of them just getting after it every day."
Talk about the challenge of facing that offense and that offensive line and how it's helped you guys improve.
"Our offensive line has improved a lot. We have a lot of returning starters, a lot of guys that are used to playing with each other. They know what the other man is going to do when they're lining up. I think it's been great for us to play against some of them. We have a lot of NFL guys that could play at the next level that are really talented, strong, quick. I think it's helped a lot with us, too."
Talk about that secondary. They've got a lot of high-level players. I see you smiling...
"Yeah. (laughs) They're good, they're really good. We can do whatever with them. We can play a lot of man and not have to worry too much. We know they're going to have us, they're going to stick to their coverage, and they're not gonna get beat deep. It lets us do so much from a defensive front when you have guys who can cover. We can send blitzes, it's so much we can do with those guys because of how good they are."
MGoQuestion: It seemed like most of the pressure last year was generated from the defensive line running stunts. It it an emphasis this year to find more ways to get to the quarterback?
"I think we'll be able to get to the quarterback. Obviously Coach Brown is blitzing a lot. We're just going to be able to get after. I don't think we're going to need to run too many stunts, but stunts help—it confuses the O-line and gets them out of place. Any way to get a sack is a sack, whether it's a stunt or not doesn't really matter."
JUB: Gotta ask about Nike. How big is that for you guys?
"I think it's a huge deal. We're really enjoying the gear that we're getting. It's cool. It feels like Christmas every day we get a new pair of Nike gear or Jordan gear. I got a pair of socks today. I was so excited, I was ready to jump out of my shoes. It's just nice just to have a change. Everything just feels like it's changing, just a whole new culture, a whole new beginning, a whole new start. I just think that switch really puts an emphasis on us restarting, getting back to the top where we belong."
[Hit THE JUMP for Jourdan Lewis discussing the hypothetical Jourdan Lewis vs. Jourdan Lewis matchup.]