bleedCrimson.net: DeWayne Walker: No question. Being a defensive coach you want to play ass kicking defense. When you look at what Gary Anderson at Utah State has done, it's taken him a while to get his defense the way that he views himself as a defensive head coach. I think guys like myself kind of envy it because that's what you're trying to work toward. It was great to see our guys play at a decent level. It was fun to finally see it. Hopefully we can built on it throughout the rest of the year.
bc.net: Over the course of the last month the defense has really made some pretty big strides. You go from games against good offenses like Ohio and UTEP where you had given up a lot of points and then you come into the game against Louisiana Tech, a team that's averaging 56 points per game and you hold them to 28. What has been the difference in the growth over the last month?
DW: I think you've gotta give Coach Elson and Coach Rutenberg, Coach Martin, Coach Bandison, all the defensive coaches, you've gotta give them a lot of credit. These guys work hard. For me, I'm in the room with them most of the time and really there more for support and ideas and really shaking things up scheme-wise and making sure they're crossing their t's and dotting their i's and just helping them more so from that standpoint. It's good to see all of their hard work paying off to a certain degree.
bc.net: The unit with the biggest improvement has been the secondary. What's been the key to their improvement? The last two games you've held the top two opposing receivers in the WAC to one catch for one yard (Matt Austin) and
DW: I think you've gotta give Jeremy Harris a lot of credit, he's kind of emerged as our lead guy and we've done some things to help him try to take these wideouts and then there's times when we have to leave him out there and he's really handled himself well. Coach Rutenberg is arguably the hardest working coach on the staff and with my secondary background we spend a lot of time together talking through things and I think we have a nice chemistry going in terms of how we're doing it. He does the bulk of the work but I'm there for support and giving him ideas and walking through some things that he puts in position to come to me and asks me about certain things. It's been a pretty good combination these last four games.
bc.net: Last year you had a very veteran secondary but you had some injuries that forced Jeremy Harris into playing time late in the year and it's no secret that he had a couple of rough games against Hawai'i and Fresno State. In less than a year, what have you done to coach him to the point where he's your top guy and kind of a lockdown corner?
DW: I think the main thing is his attitude. He's made his mind up that he wants to be good and that he's going to listen and follow protocol. I think he's improved his off the field habits which I'm always preaching. He's doing well in school, he has a different focus and maturity. Those are the things along with improving as a technician, improving watching tapes. Collectively, just as a person too, I think the kid has really improved who he is.
bc.net: As far as the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line didn't give up any sacks in the game. I think it's the first time the team hasn't given up a sack and they've really played well the last three games.
DW: I think they've improved. We had a personnel meeting today. When you look at that group it was kind of a rag-tag group coming in with all these new guys. Cunningham who's a freshman, Ume first time starting, Dada who's a newbie and having Kersten move from guard to tackle and asking a lot of Wallace, leaving Wallace on an island at times to take on the best players. I think Brad's done a really good job of just continuing to work and I think those guys deserve a lot of credit.
bc.net: On the offensive side of the ball you had three straight turnovers and you had some penalties that hurt you. How close or how far away is the offense from taking that step that we've seen the defense take over the last month?
DW: It's hard to say. We're averaging I think 12 points per game in these last four games and they're going to have to overcome some things just like the defense. The defense has overcome some things and you're starting to see some steady improvement. I just think offensively with the turnovers and costly penalties have really hurt us in scoring the points that we need to be in games into the fourth quarter. Offensively we've got some work to do still. We really need to eliminate some things that have hurt us. We've still got four games left so hopefully we'll be able to eliminate some of these things to give us a chance.
bc.net: As far as the last couple of games and playing against Utah State and playing against Louisiana Tech, two of the top three teams in the league, and having played the best two games the team has played. How happy are you with the fact that your team is still improving week in and week out?
DW: I just think it's a testament to me and to our coaches. We work our butts off. It's tough losing games but when you know that your team is improving and when we've kind of changed our mindset to, "Sure, we want to win some more games but let's really work and try to improve our football team." I think that's a feather in all of our hats that the kids are still working, the coaches are still working extremely hard. We still want to put our kids in a position to win another football games, that's really the mindset in these next four games.
bc.net: When you look at Auburn and their 1-7 record, what are some things that you've seen that they're struggling with right now?
DW: It's kind of similar. They're young and they have some inexperienced players playing. They play in the most competitive conference in football. I think they're trying to create an identity on both sides of the ball and they're having some growing pains with this football team. They're young but they're good. When you look at it, they're young but they're good. We're going to have our hands full trying to match up with these guys in certain areas. I'm sure their mindset is the same as ours, they want to just improve and try to win a football game.
bc.net: With the improvements your team has made, especially defensively, how excited are the players to play in a game against a team like Auburn, a big name team, to see how much improvement they've made?
DW: I know after the game, I told guys I'm not really into moral victories but when you're going through what we're going through you have to really have to keep your thumb on the positives. The defense played really hard and did some things, offensively they played hard, we got two late touchdowns. Defensively if we don't give up that big run it's 21-14 and now you're taking this game down to the wire. I just always try to point out the positives, point out scoring drives, "Guys this is probably where the game got away from us," and those type things but once I brought up Auburn our guys got excited. They want to go, the stage is going to be a big-time stage for them and I think they're excited for it. We're preparing like we do any other opponent and we're going to go and try to fight these guys.
bc.net: Have you noticed any difference in your team's energy level? I think after the game against UT San Antonio everybody was probably pretty down but the last two weeks there's been a lot more energy. Does it seem like the guys are having fun playing football again?
DW: Yeah, I think it starts with me. I think that's something that I needed to create more energy, more enthusiasm. I needed to be the mind doctor, I needed to push some buttons to keep these kids playing for something. You look at Idaho, they kicked three guys off, that could easily be us. There's a point after you're 1-4, 1-5, where you say, "We've gotta keep this group together and keep this ship running smoothly." I just think it really says a lot about the character of our coaching staff and the character of our football team that they're still coming out here and working their butts off.
bc.net: I know you have a lot of friends in the coaching community, how many of them have you talked to and what advice have some them given you in helping you keep the team together and focused on the positive aspects?
DW: Early on I talked a lot with Pete Carroll and probably out of all my friends, Pete Carroll, Kirby Wilson the running backs coach for the Steelers and Brian Stewart the defensive coordinator for Maryland, those are the guys I probably talked to the most, especially Wilson and Stewart. "Hey, just focus on the positives. Forget the negatives." I thought that was great advice, "Focus on the positives, don't even focus on your record." Even Doug Martin, I talked with Doug and he had some encouraging things, he's kind of going through some similar things at Boston College but he said, "Hey, it's a one game season so focus on the next game, keep coaching as if you're undefeated because the kids are going to follow the head coach." So if I'm moping and negative and feeling sorry for myself that's probably what the kids feel. A lot of it has to do with me being a good leader and trying to represent positives and just trying to create that attitude, "This is fun what we do so let's just keep doing it."
bc.net: Looking at the game on Saturday what are some things you want to see improvement on from both sides of the ball?
DW: I just think offensively, we've moved the ball, we've got to finish. We haven't finished. We've shown great drives at times where the offense is flowing but then we shoot ourselves in the foot. So really just consistent execution offensively and getting in the endzone for four quarters. Defensively, just continuing to try to create a shutdown defense. I don't think we're the type of defense yet but that's been my goal ever since I've been here. Just continue to do a good job scheming and getting our kids to tackle well and execute and try to keep people out of the endzone.