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By Mark Brumbaugh, Penn State Strategic Communications
Ask Malik Golden what his goals are for the remainder of the 2016 season; he only has one.
"Win, win, win, win, win, win, and then win some more. And after we win some more, win after that. All I want to do is win.
Ask him what his career plans are; he suggests having his own TV show and network.
"Kind of like Oprah, man. I'm trying to make some money, have my own TV show, like 'The Golden Show' or even my own network.
Clearly, Golden expects nothing less than success and there is no reason for him not to.
Originally a soccer player, the Hartford, Connecticut, native's football career began in seventh grade with the Newington Knights Pop Warner football team. Recruited by a friend, Golden joined the team and helped it win a National Championship in Arizona.
"The quarterback [of the team] was like, 'we could use some fast guys,' so I joined the football team and have been playing football ever since," Golden said.
Golden went on to have a decorated prep career, transferring to Cheshire Academy for his junior and senior seasons, where he developed into the second-ranked prospect in the state of Connecticut. An All-New England and all-conference player both seasons, Golden helped lead Cheshire to a pair of New England Preparatory School Athletic Council state titles. He was elected team captain as a senior and led the squad to an undefeated season.
Golden played both ways as a wide receiver and defensive back, totaling nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards in two seasons and hauling in seven interceptions as a senior.
Cheshire Academy is a boarding school about a half-hour from Golden's home and it provided him with more than just a great football experience.
"I lived [at Cheshire], so I had a roommate from Beijing my first year, and my second year, my roommate from Manhattan, so it kind of diversified me a little bit," Golden said. "It was cool. I actually enjoyed it a lot.
"At my public school, I would have graduated with four or five hundred people. At Cheshire, I probably graduated with 50 or 60."
The big school experience awaited Golden though, as Penn State became interested in his talents on the recruiting trail. Golden came to Happy Valley for a camp, and Joe Paterno offered him a scholarship the next day.
Golden committed in August 2011 and is one of the last remaining Nittany Lion to have verbally committed to Paterno. However, tumult would hit Penn State later that year and with no coach in place, Golden reconsidered his options.
"I reopened my recruitment, but then came back and fell in love with Penn State again," Golden said. "It was crazy, especially for being a young kid, but it helped me grow a lot. Everything happens for a reason, and I'm really glad to be here."
Golden redshirted during the 2012 season as a wide receiver but was moved to safety the following year and saw most of his action on special teams. While he worked for a larger role, he had exceptional mentors in Adrian Amos and Jordan Lucas, who are both currently suiting up in the NFL.
"I started here as a receiver and when they switched me to safety, I felt like I was finally getting my niche at receiver. I had to relearn the safety position again and that took me awhile," Golden said. "Then when [defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob] Shoop came, I learned how to watch film and scout opponents. Now, [current safeties coach Tim] Banks has really sharpened my technique, so it has been cool learning from all of those guys."
With strong competition at his position, it was hard for Golden to see playing time as a redshirt freshman and sophomore but as a junior he saw more regular action and drew four starts. His first career interception sealed a narrow victory over Maryland.
"[College football] is difficult, because everyone's a star in high school," Golden said. "When you're young and you see other young guys have success, you're happy for them, but it hurts you a little bit not to play as much. But everything happens for a reason. You can't compare someone's chapter five to your chapter 10, so I knew I would get on the field eventually."
Golden's senior year has been his time to shine in a starting role at safety and as one of the leading tacklers on the team. However, he is embracing the role of being a mentor, too.
"I enjoy helping the young guys learn," Golden said. "Of course it is always good to be a starter, but when you see young guys like Nick Scott and Ayron Monroe come along and get better each day, and they look up to me for advice, that's where I get the most satisfaction."
Penn State Football is about much more than football though, and Golden has taken full advantage of the university's resources. In December 2015, he graduated with a degree in telecommunications but he is adding a second degree in broadcast journalism and hoping to complete a minor in business too.
Over the most recent summer, he gained valuable work experience interning at a local radio station.
"I was on the air a little bit, so if you think you heard my smooth voice, that was definitely me," Golden said with a smile. "I cut music, copied music, got it on the air, checked the stream and went to local broadcasts and talked to people. It was a pretty good experience. It kind of made me realize I want to be in TV and not radio though.
"Hopefully, when I'm done playing football, I can have my own TV show."
So while The Golden Show is in its final season at Penn State, the final episodes are shaping up to be the best yet.
And if Golden's track record so far is any indication, this is certainly not the series finale.
"It's a little bit of both. We have to get healthy, we've lost seven linebackers this year so we have to get healthy. Hopefully we're able to get some guys back but it's a little bit of both. We're going to spend time on Ohio State as well, breaking those guys down and getting comfortable with those guys and getting some stuff in practice to get a head start. It's probably equal parts both."
Have you been able to give any thought to how you're going to line up
at tackle against Ohio State with Andrew Nelson out?
"We're going to work through that this week. We have some different combinations there. Obviously we have [Brendan] Mahon, we have Paris [Palmer] and we have Will Fries. So those are the three guys that we're kind of looking at to see how we're going to fill that gameday responsibility. We're really kind of on the entry level. Paris actually went in and played pretty well. Chaz [Wright] is a guy who's starting to show some things that we're excited about and then Will Fries is a guy who we are excited about his future."
Have you been able to step back and wrap your mind around what your
kicker [Tyler Davis] has done to date, considering how new he is to kicking in
a football game?
"He has done a great job. We've been very pleased with him. He did the same thing last year. He didn't miss a field goal or a PAT last year and we talked about that last year, that coming into the season, he probably didn't get enough of the credit that he deserved internally or externally. So I've been very pleased with him I think we've done a very good job of putting him in position to be successful. I think he has really showed his value. He has really showed he is one of the better kickers in the conference, if not in the country and I've been very, very pleased with him.
What has Joe Moorhead brought to your offense and what has he meant to
"I think the biggest thing to be honest with you is leadership. I think the fact that he has been a head coach, he really understands the motivational aspect of it. We talked about this at the beginning of the year, with the personnel that we have, one of the reasons I hired him was that I thought he really fit our personnel well. We still have a developing offensive line that has dramatically improved compared to our first two years from a numbers perspective and from a development perspective. The mobility that we have at the quarterback position with two quarterbacks in Trace [McSorley] and Tommy [Stevens]. I feel like we have depth and talent at wide receiver and at running back. Mike Gesicki is coming on at tight end. It's just a combination of what he did that I thought fit our personnel well and I think the biggest thing is leadership on that side of the ball and having fun and running with it."
How is he showing you that leadership?
"It's being on that side of the ball. Brent Pry being the head coach of the defense and Joe being the head coach of the offense - how he runs leading and how he installs plays. His energy, his enthusiasm that he has at practice every day, like Brent has been doing on the defensive side of the ball. Like what Coach Huff is doing with the special teams. His energy, enthusiasm and his leadership style. Just taking advantage of the personnel that we have and putting them in position to be successful."
I know that getting players back and healthy is a priority but how do
you go about getting your guys extra rest this week?
"It's not really like something that's just this week. A number of these players have been out for a number of weeks now so the longer they are out, the more likely they are to come back at some point. Our practices are going to be a little bit different, we are going to do a lot less pounding on them this week and we're going get the young guys a little more involved this week as well. It's a little bit different, you don't have to go out there this week and feel like you don't have enough hours in the day or minutes at practice to get them ready for the game on Saturday. It's a sprint, when you have a game on Saturday, you are sprinting as players and coaches to get everything in to make sure they are ready for the game on Saturday. Physically and mentality ready and peaking at the right time. When it's a bye week, you have the time to focus on our fundamentals and technique. We're going to get the young guys involved a little bit more in practice than they typically have been. Like you mentioned, they have a week of treatment so hopefully that will put you in position to get back for a normal game week."
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football enters its 2016 bye week at 4-2 on the year, after taking down Maryland in front of a Homecoming crowd Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
The bye week comes at a good time for the Nittany Lions, who have battled injuries across the board throughout the first six weeks of the season.
"We need this time off," head coach James Franklin said. "Some of our injuries, they're not going to heal in a week, but some will."
The Nittany Lions will have plenty of time to heal during the bye week, that comes on the strength of a dominant 38-14 win against the Terrapins. Penn State put up more than 30 points for the fourth time this season and the first time since 2013. The Nittany Lions are averaging 30.5 points per game, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten standings, helped out by a standout showing from quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley last week.
McSorley, who went 10-for-19 against the Terps, threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He's currently ranked second in the league standings with 1,436 passing yards. Barkley, who rushed for 202 yards and one touchdown, enters the off week atop the Big Ten standings with 582 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns on the year. He also earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors, marking the first time the Nittany Lions have earned the honor since Bill Belton in 2013.
A few more bright spots from the Maryland win ...
Allen and Sanders Boost Run Game
While it's obvious Penn State's run game success against Maryland wasn't a solo effort, Nittany Lion running backs sophomore Mark Allen and true freshman Miles Sanders each found success in the rotation. Allen logged his most productive performance of the season, totaling a season-high seven carries for 31 yards. Having entered the game in the second quarter, three of his attempts set up a new set of downs for the Nittany Lions, including a career-long 17 yard carry in the final drive of the game.
Sanders has continued to show growth for the Nittany Lions as a kick returner, tying a career-high mark with three returns against the Terps. He totaled 50 yards on the three returns, including one for 23 yards in the second quarter. Sanders closed out the day with a 25-yard carry on his first and only rushing attempt of the game in the fourth quarter, scoring his first career touchdown.
Running back Saquon Barkley had all positive things to say following Sanders' first-career touchdown.
"I'm so happy that he was able to get in the end zone," Barkley said. "When I saw him score I gave him a big hug I was so proud of him. He's been going through a little adversity this year, but he stepped up big and got in the end zone today."
Check out Sanders' thoughts on the touchdown and his progress this season below.
Smith Picks Off Hills
Ever since junior linebacker Brandon Smith moved into the linebacker rotation, he has made an impact. In his debut against Temple, he logged eight tackles and helped limit the Owls to just 38 rushing yards. Smith blew past his career high against Maryland, leading the team with 14 tackles, combining with linebacker Koa Farmer for a tackle for loss in the third quarter. Maryland also entered Saturday's matchup averaging 300 rushing yards per game, as Smith helped the Nittany Lions once again, holding the Terps to 170 yards on the ground, including 84 in the first half.
Smith also highlighted his career day with his first career interception, picking off Maryland quarterback Perry Hills on the Terrapins 45-yard line on fourth and-1. He earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors, marking the second straight week the Nittany Lions have earned the award. Smith's weekly honor also marks the first time Penn State has claimed back-to-back Defensive Player of the Week nods since earning three consecutive in 2012.
Smith talks about his first career interception and how he has grown in his new leadership role.
Farmer's Career Day
Two weeks ago Franklin announced that sophomore Koa Farmer would make the move from safety to linebacker for the Nittany Lions due to the injuries among the linebacker unit. Settling in to his new role at linebacker, Farmer sacked Maryland quarterback Perry Hills for a loss of five yards, while also forcing his first career fumble, which was quickly recovered by Torrence Brown. On the day, Farmer finished with five tackles in addition to the sack and forced fumble and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Penn State TFL Totals
In total, Penn State matched a season high with 10.0 tackles for loss against Maryland, the most since the Nittany Lions had 10.0 against Kent State in the season opener. The Nittany Lions also added four sacks, which stands as the second-highest total since registering seven against Kent State in week one. With at least 9.0 tackles for loss in all but one game this season, Penn State's averaging 8.7 tackles for loss on the year, which ranks second in the conference and ninth nationally in the FBS standings.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday at Beaver Stadium, more than 100,000 fans got to see a glimpse of something they've not yet seen in full force from the Nittany Lions this year.
Week over week, we've seen a deep group of wide receivers along with tight end Mike Gesicki dazzle with long yardage pass plays worthy of the highlight reel.
That hasn't been enough for Penn State head coach James Franklin though, who has opened nearly all of his Tuesday press conferences this year stressing that the Nittany Lions need open games faster and figure out a way to establish the run game.
The pieces to that puzzle finally started to fall together for the Nittany Lions, as they finished off a 38-14 win against Maryland with 524 yards of total offense, the highest total in a game under Franklin.
Among the impressive total, Penn State posted 372 yards on the ground against the Terrapins, which stands as the fourth-most rushing yards in a game in the last 20 years for the Nittany Lions and the third-highest total in a conference matchup in program history.
It all started on the very first drive though, as quarterback Trace McSorley connected with wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton for 21 yards, igniting an early spark for the Nittany Lions.
Two plays later it was McSorley, who faked to Barkley before taking off for a 17-yard carry. It was Barkley next, who patiently located a gap in the Maryland defense before rushing 20 yards to put the Nittany Lions in scoring position at the Maryland 6-yard line. On second and goal, McSorley found Gesicki for a 5-yard touchdown pass that gave the Nittany Lions their first touchdown on an opening drive since 2014 (at Illinois).
"Our offense starting fast was definitely something that was emphasized all week and pretty much all season," Gesicki said. "For us to come out on that first drive and get the touchdown, it's big for our offense and big for our team. That propelled us in the right direction."
The right direction is certainly where the Nittany Lions were headed as McSorley's deceptive mobility and Barkley's dynamic cuts and runs kept the Terrapin defense guessing for the rest of the afternoon.
Among six total plays of at least 20 yards in the first half (passing or rushing), Barkley had the 20-yard haul in the first quarter before closing out the final minute of the opening half with a pair of carries that totaled 70 yards, including a 45-yard rushing touchdown with 15 seconds to play. McSorley also had one carry for 25 yards in the second quarter.
McSorley, who also entered the matchup atop the Big Ten standings in passing yards, finished with a career-high 81 rushing yards on 18 attempts, marking the most for a Nittany Lion quarterback since Daryll Clark had 83 against Illinois in 2009.
"Moving forward, I thought it was a major factor in the game, that's a good defense and that's a good team," Franklin said postgame speaking to the increased mobility from McSorley, not only against the Terps but across the last two weeks.
"I think it really helped us. I do think it helped Saquon and I do think it continues to help our offensive line out in protection with some of the play action things that we're doing as well."
Barkley closed out the day with his first 200-yard rushing game and seventh career 100-yard effort with 202 yards on the ground. Accounting for well over half of Penn State's total rushing yards, he logged the most yards since Larry Johnson put up 279 yards against Michigan State in 2002.
When all was said and done at the end of the game, Barkley and McSorley preferred to give credit elsewhere, as the two assessed their performances largely as supporting roles in the run game success.
While Franklin was quick to give credit to both Barkley and McSorley, the key to the win was also as simple as what he has been preaching to the team all week - what's happening up front.
Just the 15th different Nittany Lion in program history to record a 200-yard rushing performance, Barkley walked in to the media room postgame noting that he didn't do anything spectacular or make any crazy plays. Rather, it was the Nittany Lions' front five that put on the unbelievable show.
"Two hundred yards today, if that is my season high that's all credit to the o-line," Barkley said. "They played with passion, they played tough and physical."
Answering his final question before exiting the media room at on the year 4-2 heading into a bye week, Franklin summed it all up.
"We're sustaining blocks and getting hat on hat," Franklin said. "When you're able to do that, you're going to have a successful offense no matter how you run it."
"Everyone thinks this offense is like a magic wand. If you're good up front, you have the chance to be successful and that's the difference - we're getting better on the offensive line."
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley talks offense and the Maryland win postgame.
The Nittany Lions (3-2, 1-1 East) and the Terrapins (4-0, 1-0 East) are set to meet at noon on the Big Ten Network, marking the third consecutive season the two teams have met as members of the Big Ten Conference.
Last week, freshman wide receiver Irvin Charles sparked the Nittany Lions' second-half comeback against Minnesota with an 80-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Charles joined both Saquon Barkley and Mark Allen to complete a trio of Nittany Lions who all registered their first collegiate touchdown on their first career catch.
The 80-yard pass was also a career long for Nittany Lion quarterback Trace McSorley, who led the team with 408 yards of total offense against the Golden Gophers with 335 passing yards and a team-high 74 yards on the ground to mark the third-highest total in program history. McSorley enters Saturday's matchup leading the league with 1,284 passing yards on the year.
Defensively, Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week Marcus Allen reached his fourth straight game with at least seven tackles, doubling his 2016 average in a single game with a team-high 22 tackles against Minnesota, the most for a Nittany Lion since Paul Posluszny had 22 stops at Northwestern in 2005.
Penn State place kicker Tyler Davis also kicked his way into the Nittany Lion record books, converting on his 17th consecutive field goal to clinch overtime against Minnesota. His streak of 17 straight field goals stands atop the Nittany Lion record book, having previously been held by Sam Ficken, who made 15 in a row. The 17-straight makes are also tied for fourth in Big Ten history.
Led by first year head coach DJ Durkin, Maryland enters Saturday's matchup undefeated, having won its first four straight for the first time since 2013. Averaging 43.3 points per game, the Terps topped Howard (52-13), Florida International (41-14) and UCF (30-24, 2OT) top complete a perfect non-conference slate before downing Purdue, 50-7, in last week's Big Ten opener. Maryland's 173 points on the year are the most in program history through four games.
The series between Penn State and Maryland dates back to 1917, with the Nittany Lions owning a 35-2-1 advantage, including a 21-1 record at home. The two teams met consistently from 1960-75 and again between 1984-93 before Penn State and Maryland renewed the series in 2014. Aligned together in the Big Ten East Division, each of the two most recent matchups have been closely contested.
"The last two games between Penn State and Maryland have been decided by just one point, so we know it's going to be a hard fought battle," cornerback Grant Haley said.
What to Watch for: Penn State
1. Running back Saquon Barkley was the star of the show last week, highlighted by his 25-yard game-winning run to secure the overtime victory in favor of the Nittany Lions. Barkley's game-winner came on his 20th carry of the game though, as he has proved all season that no matter the challenge, he'll find a way to execute. Earlier this week, Barkley noted that the 2015 matchup against the Terps gave him his first experience with adversity.
"Last year, Maryland did a really good job with their run defense and I just wasn't used to it so I started getting frustrated and I was really upset about it. I think that's where I grew as a player from last year to this year. Not everything has gone my way this year, but as a team I just really want to win games."
2. As has been the trend every week, a new Nittany Lions emerges to shine from the wide receiver group. Junior Chris Godwin has proved to be a consistent option when it comes to long-yardage plays though, with at least one catch in each of the last 19 consecutive games. Three of his four receptions against Minnesota last week were for at at least 20 yards, including a 36-yarder in the third quarter to put Penn State in field goal range to tie the game.
3. As has been mentioned throughout the season, Penn State head coach James Franklin has the Nittany Lions focused on getting out to a fast start to set an early tone of consistency that begins with the opening drive. Franklin has also tweaked practice schedule to reflect a quicker pace.
"Starting out practice faster, starting out practice more competitive rather than going through, we're going to come right out from the beginning," Franklin said. "I think the emphasis that we are putting on it and the changes that we are using, we are only going to go from there."
Penn State will need to be especially diligent in opening strong this week as Maryland comes to Beaver Stadium having outscored its 2016 opponents 105-14 in the first half. That's not all bad news for the Nittany Lions though, as they currently own an 85-62 margin against opponents in the second half.
What to Watch for: Maryland
1. The Terps enter Saturday's matchup ranked seventh nationally and second in the conference in rushing offense, averaging 300 rushing yards per game. Paced by leading rusher Ty Johnson, Maryland possesses the ability to rotate in multiple ball carries, who have all proven their ability to contribute throughout the year. Johnson is leading the team with 83.2 rushing yards per game with three touchdowns and is coming off of a career-high 204-yard rushing performance against Purdue. Lorenzo Harrison is close behind with 71.5 yards per game. Having scored one rushing touchdown in all four games this season, Harrison's rushing touchdowns rank seventh in the Big Ten standings.
2. Defensive back William Likely has returned for his final season with the Terps, having established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the Big Ten Conference. The two-time All-Big Ten selection logged a career-high 14 tackles in the double overtime win against UCF and ranks tied for second on the team with 28 total tackles on the year. Likely is also ranked seventh in the Big Ten standings in solo tackles averaging 5.0 per game on the year.
3. Maryland's defensive line has proven its ability to reach the opposing quarterback, led by defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam, who currently ranks second in the Big Ten standings with 1.0 sacks per game and third in the conference and 10th in the FBS standings with 1.8 tackles for loss. Maryland registered a season-high six sacks against Purdue to position the Terps at second in the Big Ten standings and 15th nationally with 3.5 sacks per game on they year.
The Final Word:
Saturday's Maryland matchup marks Penn State's 10th different Homecoming opponent in program history. The Nittany Lions own a 68-22-5 record all-time when playing in front of Penn State proud alumni. In the most recent Homecoming outing, Penn State topped Indiana, 29-7.
Penn State also has 12 Nittany Lions on the roster who call the state of Maryland home including: S Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro), RB Mark Allen (Hyattsville), LB Cam Brown (Burtonsville), WR Dae'Lun Darien (Baltimore), CB Desi Davis (Ardmore), C/G Brian Gaia (Pasadena), TE Jonathan Holland (Brandywine), DT Ellison Jordan (Upper Marlboro), WR Josh McPhearson (Columbia), CB Zech McPhearson (Columbia), S Ayron Monroe (Largo) and DE Shane Simmons (Laurel).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football remains home for the second consecutive week, set to host Maryland on homecoming Saturday at noon in Beaver Stadium.
Penn State football run game coordinator and defensive line coach Sean Spencer spent time with the media Thursday. Check out updates from his Q&A session below.
I wanted to ask you about Tyrell Chavis. We've heard such great things from teammates about his personality and kind of what he brings to the locker room. I know he has been through a lot in his life, can you share a little bit about his journey to Penn State and some of the adversity he has overcome along the way?
Spencer: First of all, he is a tremendous kid who has gone through a great deal of adversity to get here. It was a long journey, he started at Virginia and then at Fork Union and then over to Nassau Community College. It's been a tough road for him, not to speak to his business too much, but if there's anybody who deserves a chance at greatness, it's him. In terms of what he has gone through, I think it's made him who he is. He has a great sense of humor and he has a great sense of things in life. He's never really down, he has a tremendous attitude everyday. He has that old man perspective. I tell him that I think we went to high school together because he's like 22 years old. I said when you're done here you're going to be ready for TIAA-Cref. He's a great kid, a very good athlete and understands and has great knowledge of the game. I think the best for him is yet to come.
With Tyrell's late arrival, how much did that hold him back and where is he now? How close is he to being able to play a very big role on your defensive line?
Spencer: He hadn't done much physically for close to a year so I think the first three weeks was just getting over the soreness of the regiment at a Division I college program. I think at that point, that's going to slow him down a little bit, but he has progressed and his reps have increased. But as you know, I'm going to play nine or 10 guys, I don't have a dominate guy - you don't have Carl Nassib where you say he's got to be in there at this point in time. I think the closest to that is Garrett Sickels, but the rest of those guys are doing a great job understanding their role and I think as the season goes on, Tryrell's role is going to increase more and more. He's versatile enough to play nose and three-technique so we're excited about that. He brings an explosiveness that I think is probably a little bit different than the rest of those guys.
I wanted to ask a little bit about Torrence Brown in terms of what you thought he did stepping in when Evan Schwan missed a few games there and what do you think are his next steps?
Spencer: The thing about Torrence is, that I look at him as a starter so I feel like I start five guys although you can only start four if that makes sense. He's one of those guys who I count on at any point in time to make a big play. Those two are battling for the starting position, obviously Evan was banged up a little bit there so to Torrence's credit, he stepped right in. Those two guys share the reps and they are going to play the same amount of reps in the game so I think of them as fifth starter. Torrence is a guy who who can play in space, being a basketball player in high school, he doesn't fracture when things are moving. He can do some great things in space so I think the best is yet to come for that guy and we're so excited about where he is right now.
On the note of Torrence Brown, you said basketball player in high school. What else do you remember from his recruitment and what did you see in him that made you think that he was the guy that you guys would one day want?
Spencer: The great thing about Torrence is that we've had a longstanding relationship with him since we recruited him when we were at Vanderbilt. He was a guy who got hurt in high school and he ended up coming back really quickly from an injury and we weren't sure if what he was going to do and how he was going to recover from that injury. Then in his senior year doing really well in the last couple of games and his basketball, being the state player of the year small school in basketball in Alabama. We got here and we needed to sign a defensive end and we made a call to Torrence and he actually committed over the phone without even visiting because Brent Pry was his main recruiter and I was his position recruiter and he trusted us and trusted Coach Franklin so that's how we got him from Alabama. I think it's been great to get that type of athlete up north.
You've lost a lot of experience in terms of injuries at linebacker, how did that impact the defensive line and has it made those younger guys grow up quicker because you don't have that leadership behind them?
Spencer: When you lose the caliber of players that we lost at that second level. I've set it to people before, losing the four NFL guys, three drafted and one as a free agent, losing those guys makes you look up and you see the linebacking core that's really experienced and then all of the sudden you say oh boy, we have to get ready. I tell those guys and I preach to them that no one really cares about our injury situation. Having said that, the expectation is for us to go out there and compete as if this team is complete in tact and that can't be our Achilles heel at all. We have to go out there and it's not about making plays, it's about being gap accountable. You want them to be explosive and make plays but if we shored up our gaps and we're doing a great job of reading our keys, then it's going to make it a lot easier for the young linebackers. I really honed on making those guys, in the past - if you got out of a gap, Nyeem [Wartman-White] or Jason Cabinda and [Brandon] Bell might make up for it, not now, we have to be even more gap accountable. It's good and I agree with you that it made those guys grow up fast and no one cares that we have those injuries, we just have to go ahead with the hand that's dealt.
As a coach who goes by the nickname "chaos" how did the chaos period in practice, measure up to your level and grading of the word chaos?
Spencer: Basically it just stems from being ready for anything. If it's a situation that comes up and those things happen in the game. A sudden change, you don't know you're behind or you're ahead, all those situations that coach puts us in are all chaotic and we just kind of respond. It was funny, when he came up with that we were actually at the previous institution and he called me in the office and said, 'I'm nicknaming a period after you' and I just started laughing and said 'what does that mean'? He said, 'you'll see' and then he just started yelling out 'chaos period' and I'm looking around thinking somebody's doing something wrong because they are calling my name, but I figured it out pretty fast.
I'm wondering how, facing such a rush heavy offense on Saturday might tweak, if at all, with the regular rotations you guys are going to roll through. Not specifically details player to player but philosophically if the game plan might be any different to get your better run-stoppers out there more often on the field?
Spencer: Well, they obviously do a great job of running the football. I think they rushed for 400-plus yards last week or something like that. We have to be prepared. I think the way the game goes and the way I rotate - I can't say that there's a specific guy that I need to have in there versus the run but I think those guys are equally as good against the run as they are against the pass. If I don't feel that someone is giving us what we need at that particular time in the game, then I'll put the guys in there who I think are more gap accountable. At this point in time at where we are right now, I think that all of those guys are pretty even so my trust and faith in those guys is pretty certain. So I'm not worried about that either way.
You talked a little bit about Tyrell Chavis earlier, but I'm curious about the rest of your defensive tackles and how that group has progressed so far.
Spencer: I think as you watch Robert Windsor and how he progresses. The guys is six foot-five, 305 pounds and runs a 4.8 40, so when you have that type of athlete in there, he can be really effective. As you saw last week at the end of the game, he gets rotated in what I call the rally group and he and Kevin Givens combined on a huge sack. Unfortunately, when we knocked them out of field goal range, we got a facemask penalty but those guys held strong and we held those guys to a field goal. He is progressing.
I think with Curtis Cothran being in there now, you have a guy who has game experience. I know that he played end last year, but he is a guy who can physically change his body and is very capable of being disruptive as a three-technique guy. You have the old wiley veteran in Parker [Cothren] and you have to remember that Parker played a 2-1 series with AJ [Austin Johnson] for the past two years so he has a lot of game experience. Although he hasn't started up until this year, with the way I rotate, those guys get valuable experience. Then Kevin Givens, the dynamic athlete that he is - smaller, but can be disruptive in the pocket and we have guys who are sitting in the wings like Ryan Monk and those guys who are ready to go in case we need them.
Kind of taking a step back and looking at the big picture, in year three for you guys. Is this what you thought your team would be? Have you exceeded expectations or fallen short?
Spencer: I think that people tend to forget, when we first came here we were on sanction and we weren't even go to a bowl game and then they lifted that partway through. So you were dealing with that and dealing with recruitment in that particular time. I think our team is on pace to be right where we thought they would be. We had some obstacles to overcome when we came here, but again, as I said about the defensive line with the linebackers, no one really cares about that, people just see what is on the field. The expectation for us is the same, I'm never going to go out and say 'hey were were on limited scholarships' when we played Ohio State two years ago with 45 guys on scholarship. We were limited in that situation, but no one cares about that. We have to do a great job of preparing our guys no matter what. I think we're going in the right direction, we have some great guys who are committed to our program and I think we're building this place right where we want to take it.
I know that there's a lot of expectation on Garrett Sickels to pick up where Carl Nassib left off. What has his progress been like and what does he do differently on the field that the average person watching might not see?
Spencer: First of all, when we talk about Garrett and the defensive line, we talk about reloading. We want those guys to reload and what I mean by that is that you set a bar for yourself and there was a bar set prior to you getting here and you either have to match that or go above it. I think that's the philosophy of reloading. Garrett has become a leader on the field. He plays like a man on fire. The guy plays with a great deal of fire and he leads the team by example and he's becoming a vocal leader. It's not easy to be a leader. Sometimes you have to say some things that people won't like and he is willing to do that and I think that has taken his game to the next level. When he rushes the quarterback, you have to know where he is. He is going to put heat on the tackle over and over again and he's the guy to execute on that and he works on his craft every day. I look forward to seeing where he goes in the future.
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