The Class of 2007 at the U is expected to be one of the best in quite some time. And at the top of that list is cornerback Doug Wiggins, who left high school early and enrolled at UM in January along with running back Graig Cooper. I caught up Wiggins -- whom fellow Cane Kayne Farquharson has dubbed Doug E. Fresh -- Tuesday afternoon while he was working out at North Miami Beach High with his former teammates. We talked about what he got out of the spring, what he's working on now in the offseason, where he thinks he'll play in the fall, what he does away from the field, his relationship with Randy Shannon and some of his best Shannon stories from this spring.
Here's some background. Wiggins, 5-11, 180 pounds, was a three-year starter at NMB at quarterback, safety, kicker, punt returner and kick returner and is one of the most likable kids you'll meet. His high school coach Jeff Bertani was named Dade's Football Coach of the Year in Class 6A-4A after taking a team with only 33 players to the state semifinals. He wouldn't have done it without Wiggins. Last Friday, Wiggins was honored by The Miami Herald when he was named the most Outstanding Senior in the Class of 2007 in the county. Bertani says Wiggins will be a great one at UM and likely leave among the best to ever play the cornerback position. I believe him. He and Chavez Grant, another Miami kid, could form a formidable tandem in the years to come.
Despite being tabbed once Quarterback U, UM certainly has begun to produce a greater number of talented NFL defensive backs in the past few years. Which leads me to today's poll question below. After making your selection, please feel free to chime in on why you picked the defensive back you did.
NOW, CHECK OUT THE Q&A WITH WIGGINS
Q: Last week you were honored by The Miami Herald with the Outstanding Senior Award in Miami-Dade County. How did you feel about receiving that?
A: It felt great. Any award I received over the end of the school year is great. I'm looking to bigger and better things now.
Q: You got to enroll at UM early. What do you think you got out of the spring?
A: I got a lot out of it. It was good for me to stay in shape because the time I had off after the Northwestern game [the loss in the state semifinals] and traveling and eating I got a little out of shape and put on some weight. I'm back to my playing weight now. I'm good to go. I learned the plays. I got acclimated with the school, the coaches and the plays were the big thing. I'm still trying to get them. They are way different than high school.
Q: What do you think has been the toughest adjustment for you to the college game?
A: The speed of the game is way much faster. I don't know if its from not knowing the plays and can't go full speed because you are second guessing yourself. That's the only the thing that was kind of stopping me. At times I felt I couldn't go around making plays because I was trying to figure out where to be at. But I carry my playbook with me every where I go. I got it with me now practicing here at school and I look at it all the time.
Q: How hard are you working to learn those plays and how much are you working out right now in your off time?
A: I work out two times a day. At 6:45 in the morning I do it at UM. And then I come out and workout with my teammates at North Miami Beach in the afternoon.
Q: How did the first spring under UM strength and condition coach Andreu Swasey go for you? Are you lifting more weight and are you faster?
A: I'm way bigger, way stronger. I've come back to the weight room and I'm a beast now. My bench went up 15 pounds. I'm at 275 now. I came in lifting like 260s. My squat has gone up. I came in at 405. I'm at 435. I've learned different techniques now and working out muscles now I didn't even know I had. The workouts seem like forever. It's real intense. That's the difference between college and high school. You got to get the same amount of work you used to do in 2 hours in about in hour and a half. You can't sit down like you do in high school and take a break. He makes us do various things. We work our upper body or lower body or a mix of both.
Q: I've heard this year the focus of the spring workouts is speed, getting back to what the Canes have always been known for. Is that the case?
A: Yes. Speed, speed, speed. Last year, the guys said they felt like they were conditioning or training for cross-country. Now, it's speed and getting in the place at the right time. He said he's going back old school. I think the last time they did this was before Larry Coker became head coach. He said we were running long distances, things like that. Now, we're basically doing 100s, 200s and things like that. I guess they were running thousands and thousands of laps to get their conditioning up. I'm in excellent shape right now. I feel I'm in better shape than I ever was in high school.
Q: Who did you become friends with over at UM and who took you under their wing over there?
A: Pretty much the whole defensive backfield took me in. They knew I was young, going to make mistakes, but they took me under their wing. Safeties and all. But they taught me the easiest ways to remember plays. I got close with Kenny Phillips and Chavez Grant. They're from here, so they can relate to me. Me and Chavez play the same position, so he taught me little tricks to get in position and be a good defender.
Q: What have you been doing as far as hanging out now that you have some time off from school? What are you doing at night? Are you studying the playbook, going out with the guys, watching TV?
A: Well, we don't start class until June, but I'm not a going out person. I pretty much stay home with the fam and look over the playbook once and a while. I'm pretty much staying home with my little brother. I'm not a parent yet. I'm not planning to be for awhile. I pretty much sit and watch TV, talking to my family, my girlfriend comes over every once and a while. We sit home or go out and catch a movie or eat with the family. I'm a BET guy all the way. When I'm not watching that, it's ESPN or Jamie Foxx or the Wayans brothers, all those episodes that come in the morning.
Q: What would you say people would be surprised to learn about you personally?
A: My work ethic. I'm real serious about football. I'm real serious about it now. I don't think I took football this serious before. I know if I don't produce and coming from Miami, I know my job can be taken in a minute. I'm out working everyday, trying to get better.
Q: Where do you think you got that work ethic from, coach Shannon, your teammates?
A: Pretty much its everything. I sit back and analyze. I read the paper. I read Rivals.com. And I see people are ranked real high and one day I want to be just like Kenny Phillips and be a potential top 10 draft pick just like Calais Campbell is gonna be. I know in my heart if I stay around the right people I can do that. I got a long way to go. I'm not trying to do it all in one year. But by my junior or senior year, I should be ready to lead and be in the ranks like some of those guys like Kenny and Calais.
Q: What did coach Shannon or defensive coordinator Tim Walton tell you about your role next season? Are you going to redshirt? Are you going to play a lot, nickel packages, dime packages? Could you return some kicks, punts?
A: Coach Shannon told me I was going to be in the dime package. He said I'm the dime back. Dime and nickel is where I am at. In the special teams, kickoff returns and punt returns, that's still up for grabs, pretty much. But Dime and Nickel packages. In dime I think I'm the only dime pack. In the nickel its me and Chavez Grant. The starting corners I believe are Randy Phillips and Glenn Sharpe. That's how it began. There's still a lot of shuffling to do. As far as the returns, its pretty much everybody. It's me, Graig [Cooper], Darnell [Jenkins], everybody is back there. I know we got a lot of freshman in the Class of '07 that's coming and going for that. It's going to be a lot of competition right there.
Q: Are you good friends with any of the other incoming freshman? You talk to them much?
A: Me and Demarcus Van Dyke got a cool relationship. We text message each other all the time. I couldn't get to his party last Friday because I had to do something with my family. But he told me it went well. We chatted a little bit before the All-Dade banquet and I pretty much told him what we were doing over the spring and what he needed to work on. He asked me what's the hardest thing and we talked about that. Hopefully, next year, we'll be roommates if things go right.
Q: In the spring you were living with running back Graig Cooper on campus right? What was that like?
A: It was awesome. It's good to room with somebody who is not from here. You like to see what they do, what type of music they like to listen to and it was pretty much that we're the same type of people. He don't like to go out that much, I don't either. We went to sleep at the same time. We like the same people. It wasn't I want to watch this and he want sto watch that. It was pretty much what he liked, I liked.
Q: What we're you impressions of him on the field?
A: He's going to be a great back, the recruiting class that is coming in and the young guys we have like receiver Sam [Shields]... woo... I don't know even know what to say. It's going to be awesome man. It's kind of like the old UM. It's something I've never seen before. The guys we got coming in and the young guys out there playing right now, it's going to be scary.
Q: Are you helping recruit some of those guys in the Class of 2008? I know you know a lot of them.
A: I know some of the guys over at Northwestern, since the game, I talk to them on the computer and they seem real excited. I know its a recruiting process and I told them to make their own decisions. But if we get those guys, man, scary ain't the word. UM should be good for the next 30 years. I know the recruiting is only going to get better. It got good in 2007 and it's only going to get better.
Q: Before we hang up, give me your best Randy Shannon stories from the spring and from when you were being recruited.
A: Well, every week we have team meetings and everybody gets nervous because he has a list. And if you on that list because you missed a class or a teacher said something about you, you can't take your shoes off, your clothes off, you got to go back outside and receive your punishment. I remember one time, the whole team was on that list because there were some towels that was missing out of the locker room. It was pouring down rain and we were all outside doing sit-ups and push-ups. He's real strict. For towels, man. For towels. It was fun, though, being out there with the guys. We all kind of laugh about it now.
Q: And as far as him recruiting you, what did you like about him so much? I know you told me before you really weren't feeling the Canes until he became coach.
A: The relationship me and Randy had when he was recruiting me was awesome. I didn't know his job situation being at UM because I knew Coker was on the hot seat. As soon as he got fired, I didn't talk to Randy much. But then, when I was in Michigan and I heard Randy got the job, I called my dad and told him I'm going to be a UM guy but don't tell nobody, I want to announce it at the banquet. I know Randy we're the same type of guys. He wants the same things I do. He wants to win and I want to win and he wants to push you to the limit so you can achieve that. And that's me.