Butkus Award winner Von Miller received the lion's share of the acclaim on the A&M defense last year and rightfully so given his production and leadership. However, defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie played as much of a role in A&M's improvement on defense last year as everyone else. The 6 foot 5, 300 pound Jerod-Eddie was an anchor on the left side of the defensive line, the side that most offenses run to because they are right handed. He proved almost impossible to move which freed up linebackers like Miller and Michael Hodges to make plays. Now, Jerod-Eddie takes on a new role this year as a leader along with safety Trent Hunter. We talked to him about a variety of items ranging from defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's system to his expectations for the coming season.
Q:What is it about Tim DeRuyter's system that makes it so complicated?
A: It's just go. You let your hair back and you just go. That's how I explained it. He just tells us to play fast. It's complicated but at the end of the day you just got to go.
Q: Should we expect to see more complicated things from that system in the second year?
A: Our base stuff will be more of the same as last year but we will have a couple of more wrinkles, a couple of more blitzes, a couple more things that we are going to add in. We are still going to stick with the basics, stop the run on first and second down and then we let our hair back on third down.
Q: How do you think this year's defense can compare to last year's defense?
A: Honestly, I think that we can be better. I know that we lost Von Miller, a great player, a high NFL draft pick, but I think that we will be better just because last year we were still learning. Even in the Cotton Bowl, we were still learning the defense. Now, we know the defense where we're reacting and we're not thinking.
Q: What makes the defense so complicated? What makes it different in comparison to other defenses you've played in the past?
A: For me , it's not really complicated. I go left, right, or straight ahead. It's the back end guys who have the hard part. When they put up the plays on the overhead with all of these squiggly lines…if this happens you have to do this and if that happens you have got to do that…that's more for the back end guys. For the front three and the two inside linebackers, it's really pretty simple. You go left, right, or forward. You beat the man in front of you.
Q: You just attack the gap and just go?
A: I've got a 5 technique or a 4i or a three. That's elementary so for me it's just go.
Q: How did the loss in the Cotton Bowl affect the team's mentality?
A: You never want to end on a bad note. You always want to end the season positively. It was a learning experience. That's what I use it as. We've tried to put last year behind. We want to have a great season, not a good season, so we'll look to build on that.
Q: Last year you guys slanted away from Von Miller and it looked like that you were trying to funnel things to him…
A: Von had an All American season his junior year so teams knew where he always was. Coach DeRuyter did a good job in trying to find ways to get him isolated where he could rush the passer. We would put him into the boundary sometimes and slant to the field and try to make the ball cut back.
Q: What's your primary focus on defense?
A: We take great pride in stopping the run. Coach Terrell Williams is great at instilling that nasty in us, making us feel like that's our priority. It's on us. He always tells us that this team will go as far as the defensive line leads them. We take pride in stopping the run on first and second down. Third down, like I said, we let our hair down and we go get them.
Q: You told me at the Cotton Bowl how he taught you guys to use your hands. Talk a little bit more about that.
A: Without your hands, you are nothing. If you let the offensive lineman get into you, you're done pretty much because basically you are going to get held. They don't call holding really at all so if you don't have separation they're really not going to call it because they can't see you. Your hands are everything on the defensive line. We hit on that every day. He's a technician and that's rubbed off on all of us.
Q: Is it kind of like the opposite of receivers versus cornerbacks isn't it?
A: You're just fighting for position. If I get my hands inside, I'm going to win. If he gets his hands inside, he's going to win. Whoever gets their hands inside is going to win nine times out of ten
Q: With him gone, will you guys try more new things or maybe simplify things a little bit?
A: Coach DeRuyter has things laid out pretty well depending on who our opponent is. We'll play them however he feels comfortable. I'm confident. I trust him to do a great job.
Q: You guys looked really good in the spring against an offensive line that returned basically everyone. You've got three seniors on the line. How much does it mean that all of you guys have been through the wars together ?
A: It's very important. Eddie and I have been there since day one and Mathis came in late but he hasn't missed a beat. We three are a real close knit group, a real tight unit.
Q: Who are some of the guys that are the backups that are going to come on this year?
A: Everybody is forgetting that we had two guys who didn't play for us last year in Stephen Barrera and Kirby Ennis. Both of those guys are going to be key contributors. We also have Ben Bass and Spencer Nealy who are good and could easily be starters.
Q: How are you going to give Eddie Brown a break at nosetackle?
A: Right now we have Kirby playing some nose so I think Kirby is the backup nose right now. I told my coach that if I need that I can get in there too so this camp I am going to get some reps in at nose.
Q: Because you've played so many different techniques on the line you've played against a lot of offensive linemen. Who's the best one that you've gone up against?
A: Brian Thomas. He's got great hands, long arms, and his hands are so strong that even when his hands are on the outside, he's still a got a great chance of beating you because his hands are so strong.
Q: Who's the best guy you went up against last season?
A: The guy from Missouri. I don't know his name. He had great feet, he had long arms, and he was a great technician. Those are the guys that give me the most trouble, the guys with the long arms like me. He was pretty good with his hands, had pretty good technique, and he had the long arms so he was probably the best one.
Q: What are your personal goals for this season?
A: I really don't set personal goals. I feel like that I just need to be the best leader and the best teammate that I can be and that everything else will take care of itself. I'll take no tackles and a win every day.
Q: Who's the one guy on the defense that you think will bust out this year, out of all of the guys that we don't think about?
A: I think that everyone should look out for number 47, Cayleb Russell. He's worked gis butt off since he's been here and he's finally starting to come along. He sat behind Von and Damontre last year and watched them and toward the end of the season he got a sack against Baylor. This spring he was blocked one time in pass rush so I think he's going to have a breakout season.