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Ryan Bates | Offensive Line | Jr./So.
Q. How does it feel to be named the starting left tackle? You've showed us you're a versatile player, but how does it feel to know this is where you're at and this is where you can devote your full-time and energy?
RB: It feels good. I feel comfortable. Last year, I kind of got thrown in at left tackle [late in the year], and I didn't have as much time to prepare. I only had a couple days, really. But I feel more comfortable than ever right now.
Q. Can you go back to getting ready to play at left tackle last year and talk about the challenges that you've gone through in the last eight, nine months, making that transition? What are some things you've done that you worked on?
RB: I think the biggest thing I had to work on is my kick set for pass protection. Being at tackle you have a lot more space than you do at guard or center. Actually, I am naturally more comfortable at tackle. I trust my ability. I've always considered myself to have good feet and that always helps being on the outside, like they say, on your own island. I feel comfortable. I feel good.
Q. Who are some of the guys who have maybe helped you through that transition?
RB: Absolutely, Andrew Nelson is at the top [of that list]. He's a three-year starter for us. He has a lot of experience, especially at tackle. He knows what he's doing. He's been around the block a couple times.
Q. How excited are you guys to get back into Beaver Stadium and hit somebody in a different color jersey?
RB: Very excited. I've been going against the same guys for the past couple months. So I'm very excited to come out here and hit somebody else.
Q. What have from Will Fries and Mike Miranda in fall camp that gives you confidence that if something happens, they can step in?
RB: Mike Miranda, for being a freshman, is actually doing very well. I can say he's probablyin a better spot now than where I was at that stage. He's got excellent technique and is moving along really well.
Will Fries is doing really well, too. He's progressed a lot at left tackle. He's moved around a little bit from right tackle to left tackle, but he's doing really well at left tackle right now. He's actually taking some guard reps, too, which having that versatility is key.
Q. What are the top three traits of a good offensive line?
RB: To be a good offensive line, you have to have trust in each other. I've got to trust that the guy next to me is going to do his job and he has to trust that I'm going to do my job.
That's the most important, really, and you’re kind of throwing me on the spot here. I am trying to think off the top of my head about three traits. Trust is the biggest one. And, you have to be tenacious. You have to want it. You have to want to put someone in the dirt.
Chemistry is a huge one, too, not only on the field but off the field. We hang out. We do everything together. Chemistry is a big one.
Q. Coach Franklin mentioned several times Yetor [Gross-Matos] and his play during the preseason. Can you tell us what he brings to the table as a true freshman defensive end?
RB: Yetor's doing really well right now. He's got a lot of potential to be very good here. He's got the size, the speed and the strength, but being a true freshman, he needs to learn to use harness those things. But he's going to be a really good player.
Q. What can you tell us about Shaka [Toney] and Shane [Simmons]? What do those guys bring to the table?
RB: Speed. Good speed off the edge. They are doing very well right now, especially Shaka.
Shaka is probably one of the fastest guys I've ever gone against. I feel like I'm playing a corner at defensive end just because of his sheer speed and his quickness coming off the ball. He's very quick with his get-off, but both of them are doing very well right now at defensive end.
Q. New glasses?
RB: Yeah. I went home this summer and my mom says, "Hey, why don't you get your eyes checked."
I was like, whatever, I have nothing to do. Apparently I can't see. Apparently I needed glasses.
Q. Will you wear them during the game?
RB: No. I'm nearsighted, so it's just for far away. I can see you guys up close but a little difficult to see you guys back there.
Q. So no contact lenses?
RB: No contacts, no.
Q. Had you noticed that you weren't seeing that well?
RB: Apparently not (laughing).
Q. But your mother knew.
RB: It was more a case of I was home and why not. What did I have to lose in doing it? I was home, I got my eyes checked and I can't see apparently.
Q. What are the upper and lower parameters of weight for you guys, and how much weight is too much weight for an offensive lineman?
RB: It really depends on how that person's built. Right now, I'm at 315 [pounds] and I think I can play really well at 315. I feel like I'm at that stage where I can -- I'm not losing a lot of speed but I have that strength and size to play at this level.
Some of the guys on the offensive line, like Chasz [Wright] is 6-foot-8, 360 [pounds] and he's a huge kid. He holds his weight really well and he moves really well for his size. It really depends on how you're built.
Q. So in terms of eligibility, there's only two seniors in the offensive line room, Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson. How vocal are they in terms of leading you guys and showing you the ropes?
RB: Having two guys like Nelson and Mahon, it's good to have them. They are almost like field generals where they know everything about the offense and they have been around the block a couple times. They know what they are doing. It's nice to have them back and 100 percent healthy.
Curtis Cothran | Defensive Tackle | Gr./Sr.
Q. Can you talk about Shaka, Shane and Yetor a little bit and what they bring to the table?
CC: First thing's first, they have incredible work ethics. They come out to practice every day and they are humble. They are ready to work and they are ready to get it started.
They are definitely doing a great job. A lot of those guys are freak athletes. You know, they are freakish. You see Yetor, he's 6-foot-5. And then you have a speed guy like Shaka, and then Shane is just a freak of nature in his own right. They have definitely been grinding and working hard so I'm hoping we get see what they are going to do this season.
Q. Can you appreciate these young players, having come in as a young defensive end, knowing how tough that position is?
CC: Oh, yeah, I can definitely appreciate it always. Especially the mental aspect to it more than anything. At defensive end, there's obviously a lot of things that you have to know with the defense. It's definitely impressive to see these guys working and grinding away like they are.
Q. We've heard a lot this off-season about how much bigger the offensive line has gone, and beyond the obvious, they are more difficult to move. What does that do from a defensive line's perspective?
CC: It's a great challenge in practice. We face them every day. It definitely makes our defensive line way better because we're able to face those guys in practice. So when we go to other teams, Big Ten offensive lines and things like that, it will definitely get us ready. It's very impressive to see the way that they have packed on the weight - good weight.
Q. Does that change your preparation? Do you have work on particular second technique or your process because they are bigger?
CC: For sure. When it comes to double-teams, double-teams from 330-pound linemen are definitely different than 300. So yeah, just working on technique and strike and get-off and those type of things. The fundamentals [are key] and [our offensive line] is definitely helping us hone our skills.
Q. So how excited are you and the other teammates to get back in Beaver Stadium and make that transition to hitting guys in other-colored jerseys?
CC: It's definitely really exciting. You can see me right now; I'm grinning ear to ear right now. It's definitely nice to be able to face an opponent finally. We've been beating each other up for the last couple weeks, so it's definitely fun to put on the pads and show our skills in front of 107,000.
Q. You’ve been around [Penn State] for a while, but this is your first real solidified opportunity to have that starting job. What does it mean, to watch a guy like Evan Schwan do it last year, and know you have a similar career path?
CC: I First of all, it's definitely a blessing. Obviously I've grinded out a lot of years here. I mean, obviously you always want to be the starter in your mind.
So to finally be able to say that I am [a starter], it's definitely a blessing. And it definitely just shows the amount of work that goes into it. Nothing's ever easy, especially in college football. Through the years of grinding everything out, I'm thankful to be here.
Q. Curious about Torrence Brown, he was a pretty good basketball player back in the day. Have you seen him play hoops?
CC: I've seen him play hoops. I've definitely seen him play hoops. He definitely lives up to the name. I'm pretty sure he won like – Mr. Alabama or something like that, so he's definitely a hooper. It's nice to see him -- he's definitely a two-sport athlete.
Q. Everybody I've talked to about him says he's a quiet guy, more of a humble guy. What's he like?
CC: Around the defensive line, we're all together 24/7, so it's definitely more comfortable to be like that but yeah, he's definitely a very humble guy and very quiet and soft-spoken. He definitely sits on the cut, but he can definitely dribble with the best of them.
Q. What's it been like going through your career with somebody at the same position who has such a similar name? I'm saying this half-jokingly. Do they confuse you name-wise?
CC: Right. They definitely confuse us a little bit. They like to put my name with "E" and his name with "A" a lot of the times. I remember a couple times some people even walked up to me and are like: Oh, you're from Huntsville, Alabama we heard about you. And I would say, “nope, that's the other Cochren, but I appreciate the attempt.”
Q. What do you see when you look at Akron's offense,
CC: When I see Akron's offense, they are definitely a very experienced offense and very experienced offensive line. I'm pretty sure four or five starters are coming back. It's definitely going to be a challenge for us to do the things we like to do but we're definitely up for it.
Q: Big picture for you individually, what will the definition of success be this season?
CC: Goals that I have? My goals are just the team goals. Just do the best we can and hopefully crank out wins and make it back to where we were [last year]. [Personal goals] come with the territory of winning.
Q. What did you learn from last season?
CC: Starting off the season as a backup was definitely a humbling role but it not something that I wasn't used to. I've been a backup for a few years now. But it was definitely a grind to be able to get that starting spot and then once I got my starting opportunity, it was something I tried to take hold of.
Q: Can you trace Kevin Givens' progress?
CC: He's definitely progressing. That's another guy that you talk about a freak of nature. He's definitely one of the strongest guys in the weight room but he's compact. He's powerful. He knows the system and everything that he's doing. He's grinding with the rest of us, so we're all going to do great.
Q. You mentioned basketball. Who are the best basketball players on the team?
CC: The best basketball players on the team? I would have to go with the Alabama boys, Torrence Brown. A lot of people don't know, but Parker [Cothren] was a good basketball player back in the day, too. So he's definitely nice, too. I've seen DaeSean Hamilton, he is really good, too. Saeed is definitely the best basketball player on the team, he totally slipped my mind. And I forgot about Mike Gesicki, too.
Q. Are you a two-sport athlete and what is the other sport, if you are?
CC: I'm going to be honest, not really. I definitely found football and just stuck with it because once I started to venture into other sports, I wasn't too good at them. I did [compete in] track in high school but that was back when I was 215 [pounds], now I am 290. I don't think I can run that fast anymore