Note: Jabrill was on his way from class and missed the time they do the two-player panels, so we got extra time with him in a scrum. I jumped in mid-answer here.
“…in terms of punt returning, we’re almost on the brink of taking one back. Just minor corrections and me making full-speed decisions and trusting the blocks and the way it sets up. I think I’m right on the brink of breaking one.”
Your thoughts on how the secondary’s coming together right now after four games?
“You know, it all starts with the coaches. They do a great job of gameplan and coming up with schemes that best fit us and our best attributes and they put us in the right positions to make plays and it’s been working so far. It’s just all in the schematics.”
Talk about the coaches as technicians. What have you learned technically from them?
“It’s almost too much to name in terms of techniques and different things they teach us, different pointers what to watch in terms of route recognition, formation recognition, what they like to do out of said personnel or said formations so it all helps us out there on the field. We rep it so much in practice it just becomes second nature.
“In the games it actually slows down because we were prepared for tempo. In practice we kind of killed ourselves all week thinking they were going to go tempo, and if they did I didn’t notice it. You know, it definitely all starts with the preparation.”
How comfortable do you feel in this hybrid role that you’re playing?
“It’s…I’m always comfortable with the guys around me. They do a great job of preparing and helping me. I just do whatever I’m asked to do. You know, put the time in the film room, put the time in the playbook, learn the position as if I played it all year and just try to go out and compete each and every day.”
What do you like about the position that you’re playing and what you can do every week?
“I just like how I’m around the ball a lot. They put me in spots where I can excel, and then it’s up to me to play. That’s how I look at it. They can’t go out there and play for us, so they put us in the right spots at the right moments. Coach Durkin does a great job with knowing the personnel and what they like to do on each down and what’s their tendencies and while I’m out there I remember that. I can kind of get a jump on a route or get a jump on what play or what kind of run I expect them to run, so it just all goes back to schematics.”
[After THE JUMP: The best way to talk trash it to let your pads do it for you]
It doesn’t seem to be enough for you to bring guys down, you seem to have to do it with emphasis. Do you think coach Harbaugh likes that?
“Coach Harbaugh’s a fiery guy. When I’m out there I’m fired up all the time, especially when guys get to jawing at me. He preaches we play between the whistle so I’m going to hurt you as much as I can between the whistles, especially if you’re jawing at me so that’s how I look at it. That’s my approach.”
Was there a lot of jawing?
“Well, in the BYU game there has [been] but not much with other teams we’ve played.”
What’d they say?
“Things I can’t repeat on camera.”
Stuff where they’re saying you’re not good or overrated?
“Things like that, things like that. But, you know, they just get more vulgar and in depth with it. I just let my pads speak for me. That’s how I counteract that.”
You don’t respond?
“No, I don’t respond. Coach Harbaugh doesn’t like that. I almost did one time. I had to catch myself, but…”
You told you guys not to respond? Is that something he made clear at some point?
“Oh yeah. He made that clear from back in camp. If he sees any of that the whole team is going to pay for it, because in the game the whole team pays for it. You get a 15[-yard penatly] we all suffer, so that’s how I look at it.”
For you, what’s the best part of being back on the field on a full-time basis and what’s the most challenging part of it?
“I think the most challenging part is just finding my rhythm and trusting things I used to do if my knee’s going to hold up where, you know, just not worrying about if I’m cut blocked again will something trigger or happen to my knee or my ankle? But the best part is just being back into the swing of things and just doing what I love to do and having fun doing it.”
Did it take you long to get back into the flow or was it a quick return?
“You know, I wouldn’t say it took me a long time but coming off an injury, a season-ending injury, psychologically it took me a while to get over it psychologically because nobody wants that to happen again. But while I’m out there for the most part I forget about it and just try to have fun and help the team.”
How would you evaluate your own personal performance through four games?
“There’s always room for improvement. Up until this point I do feel like I’m progressing but I’m definitely not playing the way that I think I should be playing, and especially the way the coaches expect me to play. All it is is just keep getting better and better every week, keep progressing, keep staying on it, keep the battle rhythm going and try to keep making plays.”
Are you more comfortable closer to the line of scrimmage right now than when you have to cover somebody?
“It doesn’t really matter to me. You know, in terms of coverage there’s new techniques I’m learning that’ll benefit me if I enforce them how I should when I’m out there in the game. Sometimes we tend to do our own thing. You know, it’s human tendency, but if we stick to the technique and what we’ve been practicing all week good things happen.”
What do you like about being able to contribute on special teams?
“Oh, that’s one of the big things. Me personally, I just like having the ball in my hands [and to] try and be a threat back there like, okay, you not only have to worry about our offense scoring but maybe I can try and get us a touchdown or even better, set the offense up with the shortest field possible.”
Did you do anything to develop your hands? You seem very sure with the ball.
“It’s Jugs [machine]. Coach Bax[ter] makes us stay after practice, catch 15 punts and 15 kicks.”
Out of the Jugs machine?
“Yeah. And then with our kickers we have a lot of extremely talented kickers from the Aussie style and then with Kenny just kicks the line drives up there in the air, so I kind of get a feel of the way the ball spins and just how to judge the ball in the air, so that definitely helps me know how to judge the ball.”
And their two different styles probably help you.
“Yeah, absolutely. Yep.”
How close are we to seeing you on offense?
“I can’t really answer that right now. I’m trying to just get the defensive side down pat and then whatever they’re ask me to do, moving positions-“
Have you practiced there at all in the last couple weeks?
“No, I haven’t.”
How much responsibility do you have on defense really? Coach Harbaugh says you’re on the field more than anybody else, and playing multiple spots…
“I wouldn’t say I have more responsibility than the other guys out there on the field, but I would say that in terms of learning different spots that’s responsibility that I have to have in terms of can the guys trust me out there to be able to play those different packages when called on and not get mentally tired and that I’m at one position when I’m not and in turn hurt the team. So, in that instance I’d say yes.”
Is it tweaked week to week? Do they add different stuff in there?
“It’s just gameplan, so when I go into meetings today I’ll find out where I’ll be.
“Other than that I just do what I’m asked to do, try to be as versatile as possible, and play my tail off.”
There’s a buzz around the program with you guys back to winning. Can you kind of sense it a little bit?
“A win is a win, and we worked extremely hard. We felt real comfortable with the gameplan. We saw their tendencies and what they like to do, and coach Durkin just orchestrated a gameplan that kind of took away what they like to do. We knew Tanner [Mangum] was a freshman, so we knew if we gave him different looks up front and we just did our job on the back end we’d get home and maybe frustrate him a little bit. But we definitely played way better than anybody expected. Right now we’re just trying to keep the momentum going and get better week to week because, you know, there’s still a lot of room for improvement after watching the tape. We played great but there’s only room to get better and we’ve got to keep getting better.”
Jarrod [Wilson] mentioned stamping the secondary with a physical personality. Jourdan’s been very aggressive, James Ross, Channing Stribling- what have you noticed about your guys’ aggressive tendencies?
“We take a lot of pride in it. In terms of aggressive, Coach likes to play man-to-man and mix some zone in. When we get a chance to get in somebody’s face we make sure that our presence is felt whether it’s a hit, a tackle, or breaking up a pass, interceptions. We just want to make them think twice before they think about putting that ball in the air.”
How confident is this defense?
“We are extremely confident because we know how we prepare and we know how hard the coaches prepare and help prepare us. So, when it all comes together the correlation is great. Then you go out there and they’re showing you everything you went over with the scout team and it’s like ‘Wow.’ It’s almost kind of crazy how in depth they break the film down, because when you get out there it’s like they said this was going to happen. It’s playing within yourself and doing what your coaches ask you to do.”
When you’re a cornerback and a team doesn’t want to throw at you it’s pretty simple. they just throw to the other side of the field. But when you’re a safety, how have you sensed teams trying to stay away from you as a safety? Is it possible, even?
“I don’t know how to really answer this question. A lot of teams try to go tit for tat and maybe get a couple rhythm throws underneath and then a long shot, but we have great cover guys on the outside in Channing and Jourdan and Jeremy, so those guys put in tremendous work and effort just to improve on their technique and improve on things they need to improve on.
“As far as us being back there, we’re just the field generals making sure everybody’s lined up in the right spot, making sure where deep is the deepest. So, we’re making that long ball very questionable if you want to throw it because we’re back there. And the way we look at it is if you’re going to go long it has to be a great ball because we’re going to have fantastic coverage and our safeties are going to be back there to cap it off.”
That’s one of the benefits of having you at safety.
How much has it helped everybody to play multiple positions? Almost everybody is.
“It helps a lot in terms of learning the defense. When you play multiple spots you basically are learning the defense that much faster, so for all of us to just know what each other’s doing…you might have a brain lag on somebody and just tap ‘em, ‘Hey, you got coverage on three’ or ‘You’re in the hook,’ just things like that. You just learn the defense and play that much faster.”
Talk a little bit about Jehu as a blocker. Has he gone up against you at all? Has he gotten you at all?
“We don’t really have that much physicality in terms of during the game week, but when we were in camp and spring ball, definitely. All our guys are tremendous blockers, so we knew they were going to help in the run game. They come off the ball the same way as if they’re running a route when they’re blocking, and as a DB it kind of gets you off balance because when you’re in man-to-man coverage he’s coming off the ball you’re not really worrying about anything else other than your man. Then he starts blocking you then the ball squirts right past you and there’s nothing really you can do.”
This is something probably every wide receivers coach coaches his players to do, but how often do you actually see that, guys running-
“Oh, every day. Every day in practice.”
I mean from an opposing team.
“Oh, from an opposing team? That’s something we pick out on film. Some guys do it, some guys don’t. You know, if you know your matchup comes out a little harder when it’s a pass or he tries to just take the play off when it’s a run you can use that against him.”
Is blocking as a receiver, is that more an effort thing or a technique thing?
“I think it’s both. You know, you have to have great technique on everything, but it’s up to you if you want to put in that effort to block. Some guys that we play, they don’t really- they just try to get in front of you a little bit. Don’t really try to really get that physical with you. But some guys, they really get physical with you so technique. The guys with the longer arms try to lock you out. It just varies team to team.”
Do you notice Jehu on film?
“Absolutely. Absolutely, yeah. Jehu plays 100% every time, all out. Probably the fastest guy on the team, though it kills me to say that. No, I have my opportunities to prove otherwise, but he goes 100% every day.”
Defense is getting there. Your guys’ level of confidence with the offense, especially after Saturday putting up 31 points- how confident are you guys in your offense?
“We tell the offense that, and I tell the offense, once we get a three and out I try my best to get you guys to work on the shortest field as possible. We have a veteran quarterback in Jake Rudock, guys on the outside are coming along nice, De’Veon Smith is having a year- all of our backs- and when you can run the ball that opens up the pass game. Those guys on that side of the ball have worked extremely hard in practice. We see that every day, and they see us working hard every day. When that just comes together, man, you got something special. We just try to force the three and outs and we let them try to put up as many points as they possibly can. We try to put up some points as well; our opportunities will come.”
De’Veon’s run: what was it like on the sidelines when you guys see him go in that pile, then he comes out…?
“Well, I think we were actually having a little discussion with coach Durkin. When we’re on the sideline we’re just talking about corrections, what we see on the field, what are they doing differently and that, and incidentally that was happening at that time. We caught it on the jumbotron. It was still pretty sick.”
The noise tip you guys off?
“Yep, yep. Absolutely.”
MGoQuestion: You mentioned that you prepared for some things with BYU that they didn’t end up doing. How different was what you saw on film from what you saw on the field on Saturday?
“Not really that much different. When I say that, we prepare for any case scenario so when it happens we’re not surprised, so that’s basically what I meant. Coaches did a great job breaking the film down, their tendencies, even going back to last year and those game. So basically, everything we rep in practice we basically have a good idea of in a game and that’s what they showed us.”