INTERVIEW: Payam Saadat & Chris Smeland PT 2

(AS/Sheldon Y.)

ArmySports.com continues its exclusive interviews with Black Knight co-defensive coordinators Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland. In part 2 of 6 the two coaches discuss top players at the defensive line and linebacker positions.

ArmySports.com: Jarrett Mackey did a nice job as a bandit tackle playing three technique last year when you moved him from quick end.  I thought he grew into the role and played better as the year progressed. He's moving back to his more natural Quick end position. In the flex the quick end has to be the team's best pass rusher. How do you think of Jarrett will do in the role?

 

Payam Saadat: I really hope he does well. (Laughs) Jarrett is a consummate. He's going to do everything he can to prepare himself to be the best player he can be. That's all you can ask for right now. Then once we get into the season and he starts getting a lot of reps and playing that position I think it will naturally come. Your comment about playing three technique and how he got better as the season went on well we hope that same thing happens with him playing quick end. A good pass rusher has a little bit of an intangible trait. I think Jarrett going to put himself in the position both mentally and physically to be the best football player he can be. From there we'll see how it translates to being a pass rusher.

 

ArmySports.com: What is the two deep on the defensive line look like right now? (Note: This interview occurred before the post spring depth chart was released. Current DL depth chart is as follows, Quick end starter Jarrett Mackey, back up Quentin Kantaris. Bandit tackle starter Brian Zalneraitis, backup Chad Littlejohn.  Nose tackle starter A.J. Mackey is backed up by Tom Houser and Parker Whitten.  Defensive End starter Corey Watts, back up Clayton Keller. Whip Linebacker starter Zach Watts and second string Bill Prosko.)

 

Payam Saadat: We just have groups of guys right now to be honest with you Jim. We don't have a two deep per se. We have a group of guys playing quick ends. We have a group of guys who can be interior linemen for us. We have a group of guys that can be a whip linebacker.  That's how we approached it right now; more so for the sake is that no one's been anointed. Except for say Jarrett [Mackey] and say a Zac Watts, no one's been anointed. We're just a group of guys and we're trying to take that approach. There is not a Mike Gann, there is not a Marcus Hilton, there is not a Josh McNary. There's a group of us.  If the group can seize the skill sets they are being taught I think there can be a multiple of people produce the desired output of what we are asking our defensive line to do.

 

Chris Smeland: Jim, that might be the strength of the defense as an overall group. In all of our positions on the defensive side of the ball that is how we went through this spring looking at groups of guys. We are going to be a very young group on defense, not only up front but in the back row. There is nobody that's been anointed. There are not guys that we are signaling out there "That's our guy right there". That might end up becoming a strength for us as we develop in the preseason and in the early games. 

 

ArmySports.com: I know with the injuries you had a chance to play a lot of younger players this spring up front. Who were some of the players that emerged this spring practice?

 

Payam Saadat: Up front we had Corey Watts, Brian Zalneraitis, we had Chad Littlejohn in there as well. We had Tom Houser who we brought over from offense line, Clayton Keller, all of those guys besides Littlejohn are really green in terms of their playing experience. We had a young guy who was a walk on, Shane Finnane, who was a pleasant surprise. That whole crew all said are responsible for three positions. We've got to get this done somehow. Those were the interior guys.  The group of guys at quick end were Jarrett [Mackey] maybe the only anointed one. Quentin Kantaris was behind him.

The group of guys at the whip linebacker are Zach Watts, Bill Prosko and Justin Schaaf.

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