STRONG SAFETY / PUNT RETURNER
ABOUT THE FIRST DAY OF CAMP: "It went by pretty good. Better than I expected. A lot of new faces out there, and they're doing a good job. Their heads are in the playbooks - where they should be - and it went well. We're breaking in some new gear with the Nike gear and all that, so people are getting used to new cleats and stuff like that. But I think so far the day went pretty well."
ABOUT BEING FAMILIAR WITH THE PLAYERS AROUND HIM THIS YEAR: "I think that helps a lot more, especially with the coaching staff being here for a second year. The camaraderie is there, and now all it is is just bringing the rookies into that family. That's really what we need to do and pick that up fast, and I think things will be smooth sailing from there.
(LARRY JOHNSON) DO YOU FEEL LIKE A SEASONED VETERAN OUT THERE NOW? "I do, but at times I still feel like I'm young because I understand that I always need to learn more things. There's never going to be a moment where there's something I don't need to know. For the most part I feel like I'm one of the old guys out there. Being a captain, that kinda makes you feel a little older because you have more responsibilities, but at the same time the team - the defense - they take a lot off my shoulders because there are a lot of captains out there. There are a lot of leaders. For a young team, that's what we need, and I like that. It helps me out and it helps the whole team out.
(LJ) HOW DO YOU FEEL? "I feel good, you know? I feel pretty healthy. The off season, the summer went really well. A lot of guys out here helping me get better, being the best I can. I hope I did the same for the other guys."
ABOUT THE NEW NIKE GEAR - DOES THE TEAM LIKE IT? "Oh yeah, definitely. Everybody for the last few years since I've been here has been hoping that we could go to Nike, and we were promised that, yeah, we were going to get some nicer stuff in here. Now that we've got it a lot of people are like, "Man. I want to go back to my old stuff because it's broken in," but everybody loves it .I mean, the material is nicer. The gear is nicer. It's lighter. It just needs to get broken in, but for the most part the morale about the Nike stuff is all good."
ANY OTHER GEAR CHANGES BESIDES CLEATS? "I know our helmet changed this year. I think maybe with the Nike deal we probably had to get some different brand of helmets too. I'm not sure, but as for the pads I don't think they've changed, really. Just the cleats, the gloves, and the workout gear, stuff like that."
(LJ) THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE IN THE CLEATS? "They're lighter. I'd say they're light. They're comfier, too, but they just need to get broken in. Right now my feet are a little sore. I know there's a lot of other guys, "No cleats on my feet right now." There's a lot of guys out there with sore feet, but for the most part once they get broken in it's going to be a nice fit. It looks a lot nicer, too.
DEONTE JACKSON, 5-8, 191, So
(LJ) And how do you feel? "I feel good. Feel a lot of energy, enthusiasm, ready to just get after it. Got a good body, feeling good, no injuries, and I've got a good stable [of tailbacks] behind me now...well, alongside of me, not behind me, because we're all going to bring it out there.
(LJ): Coach Akey says the sophomores on the team to him are like seasoned veterans now. Do you feel like a seasoned veteran after all of the yards and touchdowns last year? "Yes. I feel like a seasoned veteran. Not just because of the yards, but because of the education I've put in on the field, in the weight room, and in the meeting rooms, and in my studies with the book and the film sessions.
(LJ) What do you think about the new training room and meeting rooms being built? "It's just the best you can ask for. The top facilities in the country if I can say so myself; so we've got to earn 'em now."
On his participation this summer: "Yes. I was here for the most part of the summer."
About working with the new guys in the summer: "Oh, yeah. We got to get ‘em introduced to each other. We got to know each other. We bonded."
About the difference between practicing individually in the summer and working with teammates: "Out running on your own you're doing it to discipline yourself. Now it's just fun - it's just fun now. You've got your brothers alongside of you. We all know what our goals are - what we want to get to - and we're not going to stop until we get it.
About the difference between being a rookie last year and his position this year: "This year I'm looking directly at myself as the leader of my group. I have a bunch of younger kids underneath me - alongside of me - and they're looking to me for leadership. I'm proud to take on the roll and show them the ropes, and help guide them along and get ‘em going."