|by Nikki Steele|
Following Friday’s practice, the second of the spring, Venables said that there are no guarantees that players who return will perform. He then said that those players have to keep the hunger that made them wanted by the NFL in the first place.
"I've had guys come back where they felt like everybody owed them something for coming back - like they ever went somewhere in the first place," Venables said. "Then they lost the edge and underperformed big-time. I've coached that guy and been around that, and that can affect your program in a bad way. You have to keep guys humble. Guys have to come back for team and be hungry and want to be great. Not to have one last crack at it and see if they can be an All-American. They have to be selfless."
Venables said that hunger has to extend to the rest of the defense, and mentioned that there are times when expectations don’t meet the reality.
"We have a decent amount of experience, and we have a foundation where it starts up front," Venables said. "You have an expectation you should be strong on the defensive line, only because of the returnees. But it's like anything - once you start assuming, you get exposed. So guys have to start over, guys have to be hungry, guys have to be disciplined, guys have to be coachable. I've had guys who came back and let their guard down. So it's our job as coaches to make sure they aren't relaxed or get comfortable."
On MacKensie Alexander
“I never saw him take any reps when we started practice last year. So this has kind of been fun. It's better late than never and been a long time coming. But he's shown some really good things and he's shown some rust. But he's talented, and probably the best talent he has is he's not afraid to work and compete. He has the maturity for a young guy to put the bad plays behind him and go on to the next play. For a lot of young guys, that can stunt their growth. But he has shown a toughness to him and that's a good sign of maturity."
On the secondary
“I really like the group of guys we have there. They all have different strengths."
On Dorian O’Daniel
“He's athletic. He's come a long way just in terms of football and fundamentals. He mostly played on the offensive side of the ball in high school. He had a great bowl preparation. That extra work was very beneficial for him. He has a high football intelligence. He's really sharp. And then he's physical and has a little edge to him. So he's shown a lot in just a short amount of time."
On employing bigger defensive backs
"When you have the length and size back there, I think that helps. You've seen it the other way with some smaller guys and a lot of speed. But people are still trying to spread you out to run the football, whether it's the quarterback run game or the power spread with Gus Malzahn. Then a lot of the game happens quickly on the perimeter. So being physical and having some length to you is a big part."
Nikki Steele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org