Success on the defensive side of the ball will always start up front. In the trenches is where you must produce and do so consistently. The big uglies up front don't always get the headlines or eye popping stats for taking on a double team block, penetrating on a run, or stringing out a play to the outside.
Coach Eric Roark's unit is a big reason for the "Hard Hat D's" improved performance over the last 4 games and he took some time out after practice for some Q&A.
Talk to us about the improved play of your d-line during this 4 game win streak
"I think the thing we've been is pretty consistent. After the first game against New Mexico, Bob Davie was really complimentary of our guys. Going into a couple of games, opposing coaches have mentioned our up front people. Based on the four game winning streak, you go into a downturn that shows their character, the quality of it. When people get into a downturn or down slide, then things just go south. They haven't done that. The idea for me as a coach or for them as a player is to develop and make progress. They have continued to do that."
"I got a text message last night from Jim Tressel. He said you take care of your end and everything else will take care of itself. We've really tried to make that our attitude."
On losing 2 scholarshiped d-lineman to graduation (Jarron Harris & Will Ritter)
"They're both transfers and here's another scenario we talked about. Will Ritter, excellent football player, transferred from Western Illinois, Jarron Harris Angelo State. I don't know why they transferred in the first place. Were they not good enough to play for them? I'm looking at Jarron Harris on film and I'm looking at this kid and I'm saying this kid might have a little something to him. At that time he might have been a 3rd or 4th team guy. He was just a walk-on, they were both walk-ons. So, I thought I'm going to get him in here and start getting him some playing time. He's a smart kid, he's got length and he's been an outstanding kid. Has never ever been a kid that has been a problem. Will Ritter just came in and showed up on our door step. He just wanted to transfer. Well that first year there's not really anything that jumped out at you about him. The second year or maybe even the spring, for a while when we were doing all of our drills he got up first on the line at everything, every drill that we did. For that reason, he really stood out. His development just went off the charts. It was a lesson to everybody else and had that kind of impact on the rest of our players. Both of them have absolutely got heart, they play hard, any time they're out there they'll play with phenomenal effort. Nothing less than a 100%."
Talking about La. Tech using a fake field goal with the game in hand during the 4th quarter that led to another touchdown last year
"The kids remember that. They remember the field goal, they remember how they ran it up on us. They really felt like with some of these teams that beat us this year and even them (La. Tech) last year, they were not that much better than us. We don't take that for granted. We're going to come in, we're going to do our very best. We're going to have to rush the passer, stop the run and identify the run."
Which young kids on the d-line should we keep our eyes open for
"We got Anthony Lee, Skylar (Nelson), Justyn (Eddins), and lets not forget Jason Neill. When he got hurt off that New Mexico game, it was sad, but we try to develop our depth for when it happens. Say a tragedy happens, we had to pull the red shirt off of them, then they were prepared. If that luxury doesn't happen, they go through spring practice and hopefully that they've developed to where next fall they'll be really good players. Skylar is really a smart player and tough. Justyn is extremely tough, fast and is growing. I'm certainly excited about getting Jason Neill back out there. You lose Jarron and Will, but you get Jason and maybe one or two of those red shirt kids. Brian Price is off the hook, he's a beast.
Talk about our Q&A with Coach Roark in the UTSAInsiders Forum
Waiting for an hour in 29 degree temperatures with a stiff wind on Wednesday morning wasn't going to keep us from speaking with UTSA D-line Coach Eric Roark, who is the man behind the anchor of the "Hard Hat D".