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April 6, 2013With one week to go in spring, UCF scrimmaged inside Bright House Networks Stadium. It was a better performance from the defense, which has been showing signs of improvement after getting off to a slow start. Junior linebacker Terrance Plummer spoke afterward about the effort.
Looking at the defense from day one to today, it looks like you guys are lights years ahead.
"Complete difference. It's crazy. From that first scrimmage out there, the offense was really giving it to us. These last two or three scrimmages we'll start off really good, and in the third scrimmage today I felt like we changed it completely. The whole defense. Everybody was getting to the ball. Everybody was running and doing their assignments, making big plays happen. It's a progression of a young defense. Learning. You'll start off slow, but we're slowly building to become what we are now. It's been great."
What's been the biggest difference? Is it a matter of getting more and more reps and that creates comfort, or is there something else that clicked?
"In spring, it's like the season. When you start off, we're young and inexperienced. Your first game is not going to be your best game. Neither is the second. But by the time you get into conference you should be starting to click. That's how it is over spring. Two or three weeks in, everybody is meshing. Everybody is starting to get more reps and get their assignments down. As that happens and everybody gets more comfortable, they can start playing. Start pulling the trigger now. I think that's exactly what happened."
Last year you guys were a deep unit, and now the depth has a lot of young guys. What kind of growth have you seen?
"I've seen a lot of growth. I think the big thing that you can probably point out now is the secondary. At the beginning of spring, we were giving up a lot of deep balls, a lot of posts, safeties not knowing they need to get on top of a post, backside drags and stuff like that, but now you're starting to see we can cover the deep ball now which is amazing to me from where we came. I never thought we would get to that point where we can do that. I think the secondary has had a big growth. The linebackers are doing well. The d-line, they're starting to get their gaps more. Play off the ball and get sacks as you saw today."
A lot of new pieces in the starting lineup. How is the communication across the board? You're the main communicator.
"Communication is coming along. That's the toughest thing. Everybody is trying to think about what they've got to do and not thinking about how they've got to help this guy here with a run call in the B-gap, or this guy here with a cover-six call but as we start to communicate everything is coming together. We'll all one accord. That's one thing we have to work on, communication, but I feel it's come a long way since the first day. We were like field mice out there."
When the offense and defense are going at it, is there competition and talking in the locker room as to who has the better scrimmage?
"Yes! The first two scrimmages the offense was just giving it to us in the locker room. 'We put 49 points on y'all today. We put 38 points on ya.' I'm like man when is this going to stop, but today we got the opportunity to be like, 'Yeah, we shut y'all down and got some interceptions and big hits.' There's always competition. The competition breeds better competition and better players. We have good competition. People from the second and third strings are trying to challenge for first. That shows you have depth as a unit and your team is growing. Competition is great and we embrace it."
In front of you on the defensive line, E.J. Dunston looked fantastic today. Demetris Anderson is working his way in. How different is it to have those big, dynamic players in the middle of that defensive line? How does that impact the linebackers?
"The way it impacts is we don't get touched. We can just run to the football and make plays. TFLs. That's the biggest thing about our defensive line this year. They're going forward now and making the offensive line go backwards. Creating more gaps for us to just read and hit. That's great. Dunston has done a great job with the younger players. Demetris is only a redshirt sophomore so he's still young too. With (Dunston) being a senior, and him controlling that defensive line, I think from him he's exuberating energy everywhere so everybody is making plays."
Is the chemistry building on that defensive side?
"We were talking about that this morning when we were in meetings. Let's make a stand. We're tired of getting beat up by the offense. We want to play good ball. We know we can. We did it all week and have done it all spring at certain times. But we wanted to bring it all together. It's funny because Coach Fleming was giving us our speech and everything, then Dunston said something that made the whole room laugh. Just those moments show that we're starting to grow as a team and enjoy each other, laugh amongst each other and now playing with each other. That's a good thing."