One of the best interviews on the coaching staff this year has turned out to be defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt. Unlike most of the assistants who seem to be very careful with their choice of words, Big C is pretty straight forward and honest. He also speaks with a lot of passion. I spoke to him at length about many topics -- Bryan Pata, his defensive line and recruiting. I figured I'd provide you with what I gathered over the next couple days.
Before I get to that. I want to ask you guys for a favor and go visit our High School Sports Blog. My close friend Andre C. Fernandez is doing a live chat while on his trip up to Summerville, S.C. with the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes, who play at high noon Saturday on ESPN in their season-opener. He's riding up with potential Canes recruit Brandon Harris, current Cane recruits Davon Johnson and Thearon Collier and coach Tim "Ice" Harris. BTW is ranked 27th in the nation. Summerville has the nation's top receiver recruit in Georgia recruit A.J. Green and (who will go head to head with Brandon Harris) and a talented QB in Reid McCollum who is headed to South Carolina. It's a big, big game and a great way to kickoff the football season. Andre's live blog will begin at 3 p.m. But if you guys want to leave him some questions before hand, feel free. Here's the link.
OK. Here's the first installment of my conversation with Big C, who deserves a huge raise for what he's done in recruting this offseason. Enjoy.
Q: What is it about Eric Moncur that’s going to make him good this year?
A: If I had to some him up in one word, it’s dangerous. He’s absolutely dangerous, extremely explosive, fast, athletic, plays the game with a passion. Motor goes non-stop. The only thing I get on him for now is that he needs to learn how to have amnesia. It’s almost like his mindset sometimes gets like DB’s. With DB’s they get in trouble if they get a deep ball on them. They don’t know how to let it go. You have to have a short memory. I get on him because of that because Eric has to be so perfect in everything that he does, if he makes one mistake, it frustrates him. We just had this talk yesterday. He needs to learn how to let things go. Let it go. So, what you made a mistake. Next play. You can just tell. He’s trying so hard to make a play. He may miss a tackle. Or he may miss an assignment because he’s so honed in on, I got to make a play, I got to make a play. Don’t worry about that. Plays are going to come. Take care of your responsibilities and plays are going to come.
Q: Who does Eric remind you of?
A: Jerome McDougle. His motor is like Calais’. He’s like a McDougle type. Explosiveness, change of direction. Saavy. But Eric’s motor is like Calais’. He is non-stop.
Q: Could a guy like Eric end up having a better season than Calais Campbell numbers-wise because Calais is going to get so much attention?
A: It all depends. Everybody says Calais is going to get a lot of attention. He may get a lot of attention. He may not get a lot of attention. It depends on what people are going to do. We’re not sure if people are going to turn and double-team him or just chip him with a back. It all depends. But I can tell you this, if they do give 81 too much attention, 94 is going to make a lot of people pay” He’s not the only one that can. But if he’s killing you, you’ll rethink what you’re doing.
Q: Can you just talk about Calais and how he is different from last year?
A: I just think he’s becoming the complete football player. He’s a very good rusher, pass rusher. But the one thing that allows him to get so many sacks is his second effort. His motor is so non-stop. But I think now, he’s more of a power pass rusher. He knows he has his two moves that he likes. He has his counter rush anytime he wants and he’s really working on polishing those moves. I get on d-lineman all the time. Don’t be a Jack of All Trades and a Master of None. Don’t try to work 5 or 6 pass rushing moves. He two that work good for you and one counter rush and just go to town on them. Who knows what they are. But you got them. And that’s what you work on. And all of them are taking heed to that. And now, your getting more consistency on an every down basis. So, when you rush the passer, you’re having success with it now. And for Calais, that’s what he has done. And he is so much better versus the run now than what he was last year. Last year, he had 20-and-half tackles for loss. He’s going to have more this year. Just because how dominant he is. He’s taken more pride in that. He wants to be more of a complete ballplayer.
Q: How about the rest of the defensive ends. You have a battle going on for that third spot?
A: Well, Eric Moncur has been magnificent this whole camp. Courtney Harris, just got to get him to be consistent. That’s biggest thing with him. He’s still young, but to get him to be a more consistent football player. But he’s a very, very special talent, reminds me a lot of Kenny Holmes (now an eight year veteran in the NFL with Packers). But he just has to be consistent in everything else that he does. He’s our best defensive end when it comes to blocking field goals. That’s why I say he reminds me of Kenny Holmes. That’s Kenny Holmes’ fortay when he was here. Vegas Franklin, he’s our utility guy. He can play on the edges. He can play down in the middle on third down situations. Vegas has had a very good camp. He’s actually stepped up and become a leader for these young guys, actually helping a lot with Adewale Ojomo and Steven Wesley. As far as I’m concerned, we have four first team caliber ends. I feel that way about Courtney and Vegas. And obviously Adewale and Steven are maturing and growing. But they’re still young and they need some time.
Q: As far as your defensive tackles, talk about Teraz McCray, you obviously are going to expect a lot out of him this year.
A: D-Tackles are the key points. I mean defensive tackles and corners are the key points to your defense. And obviously, d-tackle is obviously my responsibility to get those guys going and Teraz is a very big part to what we do. He is our leader in there. He has vastly the most experience. He’s slow to get back into the mix and knock some rust off. But he had a good practice today and I think he’s going to have a great senior year. He’s worked that way this spring and he had a great offseason and before he got nicked out here, he was having a great camp. He’ll be fine. But the other guys are the guys that have to step to the forefront. Antonio Dixon. The last four or five practices has really started to elevate his game. So, I’m really excited about that. I just can’t praise him much because I don’t want him to get comfortable. Josh Holmes, we’re getting him back. He’s extremely intelligent football player. Quick guy. And obviously Dwayne Hendricks, he’s a run stopping guy, a run-plugging guy, a very smart, intelligent guy in the middle. So, we’re coming along and progressing. I’m just happy its starting to go that way.
Q: A guy like Dixon conditioning has always been his thing. But do you think this year he’ll be able to play more snaps?
A: His conditioning has gotten a lot better. But he needs to continue to show us, he’s not Two Play Dix. And that’s what we call him when he gets like that. But, I think now, he’s in shape coming in. But offseason conditioning is different than in season conditioning. Your body has to make an adjustment to it. Now, he’s out here running 110s. And you got a 45 second break. As opposed to football and your going to the wall for whatever amount of seconds and it’s just rapid fire. So, he’s starting to get that down, trying to pick up. But that’s what we got to see now and see if it becomes the right answer for us.
Q: So you call him Two Play Dix?
A: We call him Two Play Dix. Maybe he’ll be a lot better than that. Believe me, I’m not knocking him because right now, we’re going through periods and stuff and he’s kicking [butt].
Q: What can you say about Dwayne Hendricks?
A: He’s doing well. It’s still a battle throughout. I can’t sit here and tell you who the first team guys are. Who is going to play the most and stuff like that and they still have a lot of time before we play Marshall and they’ll determine that on their own. I tell them all the time, I’m going to push the hell out of them all the time. Right now, he’s going to be in the mix.
Q: Dixon is a guy who has had to overcome a lot in his life, being homeless and the speech impediment and all the things he has to battle, how much of a personal relationship do you have with him and do you try to help him along in dealing with other issues?
A: Antonio and I are extremely close. Actually, when it came time and he didn’t qualify coming out of Booker T., I was in contact with Dixon a lot. I went up to Milford Academy and made sure everything was going to be taken care of up there and they we’re going to look after him. Obviously, I went to prep school there and I know the coach up there very well and I know a lot of guys from the school. We have a very close relationship and I’m extremely close and hard on him. I love him like he’s my own little brother or if I had a son one day. He’s an unbelievable kid. A first class person. He has overcome so much and the thing about it is, when people overcome things, been through tough times and tough walks of life, he thinks everybody should have sympathy for him. Well, he doesn’t take that approach at all. That’s not Dix’s concern. He keeps pushing and persevering. And even though we give him a hard time about being out of shape and how much we got to count on him, I know that he’s going to come through for us.
I know that’s he’s been through so much in his life, I just know he’s not going to let this defeat him. This is a tough thing. He’s been a big guy all his life. He’s always been such a good kid, sometimes some coaches may not push him as hard because he’s such a good kid, you can’t get on him. But I’m not going to be like that with him, it’s been a change for him. I’m on him for all the things he does. If he’s not wearing the right shoes. If he’s walking through the hallways with a tang top on and not a t-shirt like he’s supposed to. If he’s limping and feeling sorry for himself. I’m going to blast him for everything does. So the majority of the time, it’s going to be a lot of tough loving. But we got a great relationship and he always responds.
Q: He was telling me before about how last year, he was guilty of going out and eating some late night Chinese food, greasy things. As a former defensive lineman, how tough is it to hold your mouth at 12 o’clock at night?
A: It’s real tough. As d-lineman, our personalities are different. We like to be out in the crowd and what happens when your out late at night, your drinking beer or eating pizza – if you are of age. And you get caught up in that little bit and you don’t understand that when you eat that way and you’re a big guy, its either your going to but in some extra work or your going to have to start cutting back on some things. I mess with Dixon because he got a girlfriend named Carla. And she might kick Emerald’s behind in the kitchen. She can put it down now. So, it’s kind of tough, you got to stay away from her. I tell him all the time, she’s a sweet girl, but she’s setting you up for failure. So… I talk to her on the phone and I got her to understand, I need you to cut back on some of the stuff your cooking for him – especially when your cooking it. I said because if not, big boy is going to be real disappointed when he’s home with you.