Media Day Player Interviews: Mo Hurst, Jourdan Lewis

Submitted by Ace on August 10th, 2016 at 1:58 PM

Mo Hurst is already feeling comfortable in Don Brown's defense. [Upchurch]

Maurice Hurst

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.]

Jourdan Lewis made it very clear he wants the ball, and not just on returns. [Fuller]

Jourdan Lewis

I walked into the Lewis scrum mid-question about Don Brown calling him a "dude."

"It's crazy. When he sees one of those guys that can go get it on defense in the type of scheme that he plays, that aggressive type defense in your face, it's always a testament. It's amazing, just how hard we've all worked. I'm just happy to get some praise like that from a great coach and a great guy."

We hear expectations, we hear trust, we hear a lot of these things when we talk about this defense. Talking about you in particular, you're out there on an island. How much do you embrace that, knowing that the coaches trust you on that island to be that lockdown corner out there?

"As a whole, I'm only one-eleventh of the defense. To give me that honor of going out there to do my job to the best of my ability is amazing. It really feels good to know that my coaches and teammates have faith in me to go out there and do what I do."

Since we saw you at Big Ten Media Days, I know you mentioned Antonio Brown. What have you been working on offensively?

"Just trying to get a feel, just working with some of the quarterbacks, just going out there and catching balls, running routes. Just some normal things, just trying to get in the rhythm of things."

If you were to play offense, how many plays do you think you could play, because you're already out there on defense so much...

"Honestly, it doesn't matter. I did it in high school. What would be the difference? The competition level would be different but being tired-wise and stuff like that, fatigue-wise, we did it our whole career in high school, so I mean, it wouldn't be anything too straining."

Hypothetical question: can the Jourdan Lewis on defense check the Jourdan Lewis on offense?

"(Laughs) I dunno. Wow. If that could happen, man... that's Mythbusters, definitely. I dunno. Honestly, some people say that I'm better on offense than I am on defense. I wouldn't know. I don't know."

You said in Chicago, it sounded like a request in Chicago that you wanted to play offense. Coach made it sound like now it might be a reality. I'm guessing that's exciting.

"Oh yeah. Definitely. To get the chance to go out there and just play, do what you do, that you know you can do, and just have that ability to do something that I've been doing my whole life—it's a great opportunity. I'm excited."

You said you were a little Antonio Brown. I mean, come on...

"I mean, he's pretty good."

He's pretty good.

"Nah, he's great. He works at it. I intend to do the same if I ever have the opportunity to go on offense. And even with the defense, I'm going to work my tail off to be the best at anything, at all phases of football."

MGoQuestion: A big emphasis in Don Brown's defense in the past has been his cornerbacks being a big part of run defense. That's a switch, it seems, from Durkin's defense.

"Honestly, no. Coach Durkin expected his corners to come up and hit. If you weren't physical, if you weren't getting off blocks and stuff like that, you weren't going to play with Coach Durkin either. It's the same mentality, it's just a little bit more aggressive with the blitzing, with scheme stuff like that."

MGoQuestion: You've bulked up a little bit too, right?

"Yeah, a little bit. That hasn't changed a mentality. I've always been a guy who's never been afraid to get his nose dirty."

MGoQuestion: How about playing a little bit more zone defense? Are there adjustments there that you're making?

"We're going to play a lot of man. I don't know about [playing] too much zone, but I know I have the ability to do whatever Coach Brown, Coach Zordich want me to do."



August 10th, 2016 at 2:12 PM ^

I know he's not going to say anything negative, but hearing Hurst's comments about the O-line just jacked my hype for this year up to 11. Football cannot come soon enough.

Blue Sharpie

August 10th, 2016 at 2:27 PM ^

With our defensive line ready to wreak havoc, death, and destruction, this is the year the turnovers start squirting out of the olive jar. Lots of interceptions and fumble recoveries are coming!


August 10th, 2016 at 2:51 PM ^

To give some context: we had half an hour for player interviews, which were split between two different rooms (offense and defense), and there were fewer players available than any other year I've been covering the team. Was tough to get any one-on-one time, especially with the defense. Adam and I did our best to get around to a number of different players without sacrificing the depth of the interviews, but it's a tough balancing act. I bailed on the Jabrill Peppers scrum after about a minute because it was going to be near-impossible to get decent, non-repetitive questions in.

RHammer - SNRE 98

August 10th, 2016 at 3:09 PM ^

you guys are so clearly head & shoulders above the rest of the local (and nat'l) media with your insightful and incisive questions during coach/team interviews and availability, it makes being fans that much more enjoyable.  thanks for all that all of you do!


August 10th, 2016 at 3:21 PM ^

Notice how the context of the comments always comes back to what's best for the team and how the player's roles contribute to the team's success.  That's a product of great leadership!


August 11th, 2016 at 8:30 AM ^

DL is scary good - 2 deep at each position with guys that switch it up and can rotate at SDE and 3-tech. The multitude of DL schemes/players are going to be tough to block. Add in the threat of Peppers on a blitz? I mean this is going to be fun to watch.