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Football: Defense hopes to improve

Bill Brink | Thursday, April 2, 2009

Freshman defensive end Hafis Williams spent all of last season on the scout team. This year, he found his name second on the depth chart.

“[Defensive line] Coach [Randy] Hart just put the depth chart up and we just went along with it,” Williams said.

He knows, however, that his position may change at any time.

“It’s spring ball right now. The depth chart just goes up and down,” he said. “I’m working hard right now making myself better and making my teammates better.”

Williams said the time he spent on the practice squad helped him observe his teammates and improve both his team and himself.

“I helped the offense get better, I got better myself,” he said. “If I didn’t get better last year it didn’t matter. I was making the team better every single day.”

Williams said Hart, the former defensive line coach at the University of Washington, was teaching the team fundamentals. He said graduate assistant Bryant Young helped as well.

“He’s teaching us so much, and coach Young comes into the picture and teaching us from his experience,” Williams said. “It’s a great feeling right now.”

Williams is part of a defensive unit that lost safety David Bruton to graduation. Sophomore linebacker Harrison Smith will slide into the secondary to take over David Bruton’s spot. Junior safety Sergio Brown said the defense won’t have to change too much to accommodate Smith.

“It’s not really going to change too much because Harrison, he’s an athletic defensive back as well,” Brown said. “And once we get on the same page and everybody starts clicking, we’re probably going to be better than last year.”

Smith said he felt more comfortable with the defense because of his experience and that he could answer questions the younger guys asked him about it.

“It’s different from last spring,” he said. “Really I feel like more of a guy that some of the younger guys can look to and ask question. I feel like I know most of the ins and outs of the defense.”

The defense, Brown said, was in pretty good shape. Spring ball is about dusting off certain areas of it, he said.

“Just the basics, new terminology and stuff,” he said. “Really trying to pick up where we left off and sharpen up some areas where we were kind of rusty.”

The defense got a chance to test itself in a scrimmage last Saturday, one Williams said he was nervous about. But he said he was able to gather himself and focus.

“That was just a big scrimmage in my mind, I just wanted to go out there and work hard,” he said. “I just had to clear my throat, and after that I felt great.”

Williams said watching from the sidelines last year helped him take “mental reps,” which helped him keep from making the same mistakes the starters made.

“Coaches correct somebody, and you just watch and try not to make the same mistake as they do,” he said. “Mental reps help so much.”