September 3, 2009

Muschamp 101: Coach Boom says D is fast, ready

For a guy who lost Roy Miller and Brian Orakpo from a defense last year that led the nation in sacks, Will Muschamp doesn't seem like he's losing sleep.

Sure, he talked about how you don't know what you have until players are "under the lights." But in the next breath, I asked him how he'd judge the speed of this defense, and he said, "I think we have a fast defense. I really do.

"I think we're faster than we were a year ago from a standpoint of guys being able to run and finish," Muschamp added. "But I think a lot of the guys are the same guys. A lot of it had to do with reaction instead of thinking and understanding the concepts of what we're trying to do schematically.

"I think that shows up a little bit more. I exchange ideas with Greg (Davis) and our offensive staff. They say, 'Hey I think you may be a little faster than you were a year ago as a defense.'"

GETTING HEAT ON THE QB

You ask him about getting a pass rush similar to last year, when Texas led the nation with 47 sacks, and Muschamp doesn't hesitate. You can tell he's confident again.

"We've just got to do a good job of finishing in the pocket in the game," Muschamp said. "We did a good job of it last year, and most places I've been we've done a good job of it. We look forward to doing it again Saturday."

The guy spearheading that pass rush is Sergio Kindle, who made headlines over the summer for running his car into an apartment building. But Muschamp said Kindle has been the picture of focus leading into the season.

"He's approached it the way you're supposed to approach it to improve himself and get better - in practice, in the weight room and in the off-season," Muschamp said.

"I've been around other situations when it wasn't that way. And he's not done that. He's approached it to improve himself as a football player and take further steps as far as where he needs to go."

YEAR 2 OF THE MUSCHAMP D

From the defensive line, to the linebackers and secondary, Muschamp is asking more of his defense in Year 2 - most of it has to do with disguise.

"I always tell them don't let disguise get you out of position," Muschamp said. "But in year two, when they understand a lot more about where they got to get, it's a lot easier to disguise when they understand where they need to go.

"They understand where they can disguise better now because we are always trying to make the quarterback make the decision after the ball is snapped as opposed to pre-snap when the guy knows exactly what he's got. That's hard on the defense, especially when a guy is an accurate thrower. But that's where we need to be."

FINDING LEADERSHIP

Leadership is an area Muschamp is most interested in seeing on the field.

"We have players who are capable of being outstanding leaders," Muschamp said. "But I don't think you test your true leadership until your backs are against the wall in a game situation and you're facing some adversity, which could happen in the first game of the year.

"But I do think the kids have pushed through camp well and approached each day with a blue-collar attitude and what we want to do in a Texas way. We've built some depth on our team, and when you're able to do that you have great competition."

Muschamp said tackling and penalties are concerns he has going into Saturday because it's the first game of the season.

"There are going to be some things that come up in the game that we have not seen or prepared for, so you have to rely on your scheme and adjust it out," Muschamp said. "We're excited to see how the kids respond."

THE HARD HAT

I asked Muschamp who had the best Hard Hat Award during camp, and Muschamp said, "Earl. Earl Thomas and Christian Scott had some really nice finishes, and Earl has it right now. Hopefully he'll lose it on game day to somebody else."

Folks, I don't know if it can be stressed enough how good Earl Thomas has been in camp.

And don't think Muschamp has lost any of his edge from when he lined up as an overachieving walk-on safety at Georgia. This season, officials are being given the latitude to eject a player for any helmet-to-helmet hits that are considered malicious against a defenseless player.

When Muschamp was asked about the new rule, he just shook his head, appearing to be dubious of how it will be interpreted and just said, "I don't know."

We waited for something else to come out of Muschamp's mouth, but nothing. Just, "I don't know."

MACK BROWN MOMENT

Muschamp's mind was probably racing while thinking of some of those Hard Hat hits from Thomas and Scott in camp and wondering if an overzealous official might eject one of them.

So maybe his silence was a "Mack Brown moment." The coach-in-waiting probably channeled his head coach and made sure he didn't say anything that would catch fire and possibly be a distraction to his team.

New rule interpretations aside, Muschamp is clearly ready to see what he's got.

Muschamp was asked about comparing his first look at this year's defense in a game on Saturday to "Christmas." He smiled and said, "Sometimes, it's better than Christmas."

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