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August 8, 2014

D.J. Eliot

COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Excited to be here again.  Looking forward to the season.  Outside the players, you are my favorite people to be around.

Q.  D.J., you and Mark talked aboutMatt Elam being athletic.  What does athletic mean in someone that big?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Well, imagine a big train going fast down the track.  When you see someone that big, you just don't expect to see an explosion and something so quick off the ball, and he has that.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  I don't know.  He definitely has a natural talent, but he had some good high school coaches, and he went through a good program.

Q.  Have you around a guy in your career of this size?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Never that big.  He's probably the biggest player I've ever been associated with.  Coach Stoops and I were at Florida State together.  We were at Miami together, and we had some good defensive tackles, but never one that big.

Q.  Why do you think teams get so much better statistically under Stoops on that second year?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Well, the first year you go in, and everything's new to them.  Every time they see something, it's the first time they see it.  And then the second year, you've got a chance to, hey, I've been there.  I've seen that.  I know what I'm supposed to do.  So you see improvement.

Q.  D.J., how doesJ.D. Harmon look?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  He looks good.  He's got great size for a corner.  He's got great change of direction, good speed.  It's great to have him back out there this season.  He's got a bright future.

Q.  Before we get into this, do you have a better idea of your defensive tackle situation?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  It's tough to tell.  We've only had one shoulder padded practice.  At that position, so much is based on the physicality.  So we really haven't seen them hit each other much.  It's tough to tell.

Q.  Which areas of the defense have you seen most improvement since the spring?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Most improvement since the spring, I think we're better in the secondary.  We're better in the secondary.  That comes with experience.  I think that comes with just more reps as well.

Q.  What do you ask from a guy like Ashely Lowery to make improvements?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Ashely is a senior.  He's got to be a leader.  A lot of those qualities we got from Avery last year.  He has to have those in the secondary.
On top of that, his play has got to be very, very good.  That safety position is critical on our defense, so he has to communicate, he's got to get guys lined up, and then he has to make plays.

Q.  Any impressions of Flannigan so far? 
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Very athletic.  Picks up the defense quick.  Like I said, we've only had one shoulder padded practice, so I don't know yet who's going to hit who.  It's tough to tell from that standpoint, but I've been impressed with him.

Q.  He said you quizzed him a little bit when he wasn't here, trying to make sure.  He talked about that a little bit.  When you can't sit with a guy and watch film, can't work with him physically, how do you exactly do that over the phone?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  The first thing, I learned what his defense was that he knew in junior college, and I tried to translate it.  So that it would go quicker in his mind, what we were doing.
But the good thing is he's not a high school kid.  He's played two years of college football.  That's what you get with a junior college player.  So he's a little more advanced in understanding the game than a high school kid would be.

Q.  How did he do on those quizzes?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Very good.  Very good.

Q.  What do you know about this town that you didn't know before?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  I didn't know the media was going to be so good.

Q.  So you learned how to suck up?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  I'll tell you what, what I didn't know is how passionate the fan base is about football.  I knew the fan base was passionate about basketball, but I didn't know how passionate they were about football.  It's been very impressive and very exciting to see that.

Q.  [ No microphone ]?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  And Nico?

Q.  Yes.
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  I think they have a lot of potential.  I'm very impressed with both those guys.  As you know, last year we didn't have a freshman linebacker.  We didn't sign a freshman.  So this is the first year I've had freshmen at linebacker.
I'm very impressed with those guys.  They're athletic.  They're into it.  They're intense, which you've got to be in that position.

Q.  Do either of them have a chance to start?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Again, it's too early to tell for those positions.  Sometimes in the skill positions you can tell more without pads, but at the line and linebacker, it's tough to tell when you haven't hit anybody yet.

Q.  How much do you hope [no microphone]?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  I hope to get him on the field as much as I can, but most of that is up to him.  Where his play is at, and that's for everybody on the team.  But he's got a talent that I want to use, and we're going to do everything we can to get him on the field and use him.

Q.  What about the guys that are going to be sophomores now that are going to play defense?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Like I said before, those guys in the secondary took their lumps, having to go out in the SEC and play as true freshmen, but it really matured them.
So now going into this training camp, I feel much better about them, and they feel more confident in what they're doing, having been there.

Q.  Coach, with a lack of depth at linebackers, do you see it as a better approach to be more multiple with your defenses [no microphone]?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Ultimately, you have to be great fundamentally.  You have to be great with your fundamentals.  So you need to harp on that in whatever scheme you choose to run.
We're a multiple defense.  We run a lot of different schemes.  We run a lot of different looks, and we're going to continue to do that.

Q.  How do you feel about the defensive tackle?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  We lost two guys that were critical in our defense last year, but Mike Douglas by the end of the year last year was playing well, and he's back.  And then we redshirted three defensive tackles last year in Melvin Lewis, Jacob Hyde, and Regie Meant, so they just got bigger, stronger, and faster.  So they're much more mature than they were last year.
And then with the addition of our freshmen too, I think we'll be in good shape.

Q.¬† Who are the guys on the offensive side of the ball in the practices that you've had with them, are there guys who are already calling you guys out?¬† Have you gone good‑on‑good?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:¬† No, we've gone good‑on‑good and seven‑on‑seven.¬† We've had to battle those guys.
Some of the usual suspects are good over there, but some of the freshmen that have caught my eye are like Dorian Baker, Garrett Johnson.  I think those guys are playing well.

Q.  Who's the starting quarterback?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  Neal Brown.

Q.  Can you tell me how his tempo is for the offense?
COACH D.J. ELIOT:  His tempo, it's improved.  It's always fast, and it's improved.

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