ATHENS -- Sterling Bailey believes this year's defensive line has the potential to run a deep rotation.
Sure, the group lost Ray Drew and Mike Thornton to graduation. But defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker rotated a lot of players to gain experience. Despite the losses of those two players, Bailey has plenty of confidence in his teammates heading into the 2015 season.
Bailey met with the media on Friday and discussed his thoughts on the defensive line, where the unit is at compared to preseason practice in 2014 and if Rocker has mellowed any after a fiery year one.
Question: So far in camp, can you compare how you guys are compared to last year?
Sterling Bailey: Compared to last year I think this defense has made some great strides. Watching film, we’re all improving on fundamentals with the help of our coaches. We’re getting after it a whole lot more. It’s just been a great fall camp so far.
Q: You guys have a pretty big crop of new defensive linemen over there, what have you seen out of those guys?
SB: Oh man, they’re all giving it their all. They’re out there taking the coaching, listening to the upper classmen. They’re coming coachable and that’s what we need around here. Players that can be coached.
Q: Trenton Thompson specifically, is there anything that stands out about him among the other freshmen or are they all just equal?
SB: Right now we’re all just equal. We’re just going at it with each other each and every day, making each other better, working on fundamentals. Just listening to Coach Rock, everything is just grinding.
Q: How’s coach Rocker been this year? Has he mellowed this year or is he still the same old coach Rocker, chewing butt and taking names?
SB: (laugh) There’s nothing changed about coach Rock. He’s still out there getting after everyone of us. From the d-linemen to DBs to offensive guys -- if it ain’t what he wants he’ll get after it.
Q: He gets after the offensive guys too?
SB: Oh, yes sir.
Q: How so? Give me an example.
SB: If he sees no one is running to the ball, running to the hoop, he’ll chase them down and say, ‘Hey, come on now. You gotta go, gotta go. You can’t just walk around on the field. You ain’t gonna be walking around when a baby’s crying, you’re going to be running to go get it.’ Just stuff like that.
Q: How deep would you assess this defensive line group? Do you feel you can go six, seven deep up there this year?
SB: I feel like we have the potential to be a deep defensive line unit. Of course, everyone is learning the defense. Fundamental wise, we’re getting it down pat. It’s going to be interesting to see this fall, just the rotation and everything that will be played throughout the year.
Q: Is it tough losing that kind of production, with the two guys that left?
SB: Every year you lose production. It’s up to the next year players that are left behind to pick up where they left off. We lost two but look how many we gained from experience. It’s just going to be a great year for us.
Q: What impact has depth had on the d-line? I know in your first couple of years they didn’t play a lot. Then they decided to play a lot of guys.
SB: Depth is huge. Especially in this league when you have teams running the power and then going to the spread, spreading the ball out. You just want to have guys that are able to throw out there here and there. Having depth on the defensive line is tremendous.