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September 12, 2017

DeAndre Thompkins

Koa Farmer

University Park, Pennsylvania

Q. When you know you're going to return a ball and it's not going to be a fair catch, what's the first thing you look for to see what's going to happen next?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: Whenever I catch the ball and I get my eyes downfield I just look for blue jerseys and try to go away from them because those are my guys. I try to look for where my teammates are and try to read them and also try to read Green grass, as well.

Q. When you first started returning punts, how do you get to the point where you're not worried about getting your head blown off? How do you get that confidence that you're not going to die?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: No, I understand, because I had that feeling at first when I was first returning punts. All I can say is really, just grow up. Getting hit is part of the game. It happens to everybody. Everybody gets their shot.

So you've just got to realize that it's going to happen. You've just got to make a play regardless. It's kind of one of those, the ball is in the air and you're like, if I get hit, I get hit, and if I don't, I'm going to try to score a touchdown.

Q. At what point did you get over that?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: I would have to say what I first started returning punts in like the Buffalo game. I kind of had a good punt return in that game, so I had the highs. Then muffin punts and getting hit in a game, as well, kind of like puts into perspective the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

And then just growing up with experience, you kind of learn, all right, like bad things happen, and then good things happen. So you've just got to go out and make the best of your opportunities.

Q. James was telling us about how he tracks everybody's sleep and you guys are wearing like a device to track your sleep. How long have you been doing that and how much sleep do you regularly get and does that fall in line with what he wants?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: I think we've been wearing them -- we started spring, this spring. It's kind of been awhile we've been able to track how we've been doing throughout the night.

My numbers are pretty well. I get in the green as much as I can. There's times where practice and studying and school gets in the way but for the most part, I feel like as a team, even as a unit, as a receiver unit, we get very good rest.

Q. Are you eligible for kickoffs in practice --
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: I'm pretty much eligible for anything but it's up to the coaches. I just do my job and wherever I am on the depth chart at that time, I just go and do the best of my ability at that position.

Q. Is there an NFL guy you model after or do you have your own way of doing it?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: One thing I can say that's different about punt return is that you kind of can't really watch film on anybody catching punts because it's kind of like an individual kind of technique.

You know, it's just kind of -- it really is backyard football. Punt return really is backyard football. Once you catch the ball, it's kind of like just get away from everybody who is trying to tackle you. It's like playing tag, basically. There's not really anybody in the NFL that I watch consistently catch punts. I do watch punt return at the NFL level but there's not really a guy that I single out that I watch or model.

Q. What challenge does Georgia State pose, especially from your perspective? Coach was talking about they have the ability to stop the big play and you want to make the big plays. What challenges do you see coming up Saturday for you guys?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: They are a great team. They are well-coached. They are fast. They have guys who have played a lot of football, a lot of experience on the back end. They are just guys who have been playing football for awhile.

So experience is always something that you can't teach. So that's one thing that they have that I've been able to watch on film.

Q. Can you take us back to the spring when the sleep program was first introduced; the reaction amongst the guys?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: It's kind of weird being able to put numbers to your sleep. So it was kind of like a weird situation being able to go on your iPad and track how much sleep you had, how many times you woke up and stuff like that.

But as we kind of developed with it more and kind of understood it better with our strength staff bringing us in individually being able to look at our numbers and talk about things that we need to improve on or things that we're doing very well, kind of helped us as a team be able to come out every day and peak at the right time; as Coach says, every day.

That's one thing that I think the WHOOP has done for us, being able to put numbers to being able to prepare yourself very well for not just the game but practice or lifts or anything there is that you have in the day.

Q. Did you have any reservations about wanting to use that?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: I mean, sleep is something that's very important. You talk to any athlete that's a professional athlete; says that sleep is something that is very valuable. When we got the opportunity to sit down and talk about the WHOOP and what it does, that was something I was very interested in. Whether my coach sees it or not, that's something that I can improve on and make myself better.

And then with my coach watching it, as well, he can give me pointers or tips or advice on how I can make myself the best self I am.

Q. Is the goal eight hours?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: It depends a lot. There's a lot of factors that go into it: Stress level, whether you're sick or not, how long you've been working out. They actually have like a stress level on our meter that tells you just how much stress you've had the whole day.

So it kind of depends. There's different factors that lead into it, and the good thing; that it kind of puts a color indicator on how well your sleep is. So of course, red, yellow, then green.

Q. Is this something you wear all the time or is it something you put on at night? Are you wearing it now?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: Yeah, I'm actually wearing it now. I wear it 24/7. Doesn't come off. I mean, I take it off sometimes in practice if I know it's going to fall off but for the most part, I wear it 24/7.

Q. Does it measure anything besides sleep and stress levels?
DEANDRE THOMPKINS: From best of my knowledge, heart rate, that's one thing I look at, sleep and stress level. Stress level being how fast your heart beats in a workout or stuff like that.

Q. We're asking everybody today, James was telling us about the WHOOP sleep tracker. You guys started using them in the spring, I believe. What's the process been like for you getting adapted to it and do you like using it or not?
KOA FARMER: I'm actually not wearing mine right now because I was at the career fair. Yeah, I think it's good. I like looking at it because it measures your sleep, your sleep performance and your day strain. So if you're working too hard and you're getting less sleep, how-is-that-going-to-affect-your-day, type thing. So I think that's pretty interesting to look at.

Q. Is it hitting green, the sleep category?
KOA FARMER: No, I'm not. On weekends, I do, yeah.

Q. Can you take us back to the first team meeting or whenever this was introduced, what that was like, first hearing about it, who explained the process and how it would go from there?
KOA FARMER: Yeah, I think D (ph) mentioned some guy from Australia was going to come and talk about a new device. They were talking about it, and we were like -- we were very excited. You know, what is it going to look like. Is it going to look like an Apple-watch-type thing, things like that. When we got it, it was exciting. For the coaches to give us that's kind of devices and for us to use it is big for our program.

Q. So talk about this week's opponent, Georgia State, what challenges they bring from your perspective and what you're looking for in this game?
KOA FARMER: Yeah, I think they are a solid program. They had a good game against Wisconsin last year at Wisconsin. Obviously Wisconsin is a great program. Me and Jason were actually going to watch some film on it yesterday. They have some athletes. They run a solid offense. And I think it's going to be a challenging opponent.

Q. Coach talks about the big plays and they are good about shutting down explosive plays. Talk about that storyline.
KOA FARMER: Yeah, I think our offense is very explosive and Georgia State has explosive players, as well. They are fast and athletic. That's just something on our defense that we have to contain.

Q. Can you talk about your role on the kick return team, and how much do you want to see somebody kick it away from Saquon and maybe to one of the up-guys?
KOA FARMER: Yeah, I'm a retired kickoff returner. Yeah, I think when 26 is back there -- I mean, I wouldn't want to kick it to him. The first time I'm looking at the ball every single time we go out there to get that opportunity. I always tell Coach Huff, "If I take it back, you'd better put be back on kickoff return."

Yeah, but it's fun. That's how dangerous our special teams and that's how important special teams is for us, and just to get that opportunity is good.

Q. Can you address what your role is when Saquon gets the ball; do you have to wait a certain amount of time?
KOA FARMER: Just depends on the return that week. Sometimes I'm with the wedge with Jason and sometimes I'm just getting a guy on the back side. But when I do get the ball, just got to get as much as you can and do as much as you can do.

Q. As a front seven, what's the biggest thing you guys have wanted to improve on going into this week and the next couple weeks?
KOA FARMER: Just the details. Coach Franklin always talks about, you know, if we each get one percent better, how much as a whole we're going to get better: Running to the football, finishing tackles, wrapping up, playing with personality, things likes that. I think that's one thing that we can work on each week.

Q. How much time did you spend on fundamentals like that in practice?
KOA FARMER: We do as much as we can. You can argue the game of football is changing and not a lot of hitting is done in practice, but one thing we do focus on is the fundamentals: Wrapping up, squeeze, squeeze and roll, things like that.

Q. Going off on your role, you've become established as a starting linebacker, you found a position after playing many, like you said, kick returner, among many. But talk about your comfortability in certain packages, being on a quote, unquote, island, with the slot receiver, and knowing he's your responsibility and how you're using your blend of speed and athleticism to stay with a guy like that. And how does that help what you guys are trying to do against Georgia State and the rest of your opponents this year?
KOA FARMER: Yeah, I think I would argue, you know, I'm kind of like a safety-type linebacker. Like safeties are fast, but linebackers are big and strong. I think I kind of have both in a way.

As far as like defending the run on slots, a lot of times I'm bigger than those guys. But to be a force; Coach Pry always talks about being a force out there, just kind of forcing the ball in, forcing the receiver to make those tackles. And then the pass game is just kind of reading past concepts, like get in the curl flat drop, the v-tech drop, kind of just, you know, being more smarter and looking at what the opponents's scheme are, kind of thing.

Q. You raise a good point about what you guys practice -- how often do you guys practice elements of identifying, okay, run/pass and then getting off that blocker? Because it seems like whichever way Pitt would have went there, either you would have made the play or Marcus ended up making the play, but it seemed as if you guys were ready for something like that. What goes into that?
KOA FARMER: Yeah, that's just reading off the times -- the offense, the pass, the pass run read is their left tackle. That's what I read looking into the box. If it's a high hat, then it's a pass. If he's pulling or coming down on the D-end, it's a run.

But yeah, Marcus made -- he read it really good, as you can see, the blocker didn't even touch him and he made that play. That was just big.

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