Non-Transcript with Chris Level and Defensive Line Coach Mike Smith

Double-T 104.3’s Chris Level interviewed defensive line coach Mike Smith about a week ago and the following is a non-transcript, which is simply me typing as fast as I can while listening to the interview. For a completely accurate interpretation, please listen to the interview. It is very much worth your time.

Level: Tell me about your position and being in charge of the defensive line.

Smith: Yeah, it’s really exciting, I know I played linebacker, but I see myself as a d-line coach, I know my coaching career is as a defensive line coach, and that has helped me, Rex Ryan, who may be the best in the country. That’s all Rex wants to talk about at times. It’s good, I’m excited, clearly it is the part of the defense that has struggled the most the last two, three, four, five years and I’m excited about the challenge and we’re starting from ground zero. Like they don’t know anything. They don’t understand block protection, pass protection hard shoulder, soft shoulder. I’m teaching them football. All of the fundamentals that they have to get better at. The next thing is toughness, I don’t think we’re very tough up front. Been really hard on them, they have done a good job, don’t have baby deer skin.

Level: Different opportunities, you are back because you want to be back. Talk about your relationship with Kliff.

Smith: I love Texas Tech and I love Lubbock, Kliff is one of my best friends in the world and there is no other place I’d rather be and I was very excited about taking the d-line job. I want to build this thing, once we do that, make it where Kliff and the rest of the staff want it to be, then I’ll feel like I have succeeded in life. It’s a huge goal for me. My wife sent me an app because I only got an hour of sleep, only got an hour because I’m so excited about spring practice.

Level: Lot of JC guys who are in year two, you have to have that out of him. Let’s talk about Rika levi.

Smith: When I took over the d-line, he was 370, I told him that he couldn’t take the field unless he was 330, came in at 328, already a better football player. He had one of the worst stances I’ve seen, super wide and butt up in the air. Doesn’t understand it if is pass. So we narrowed his stance and flattened his back. Teaching, hasn’t been taught the right things, at least according to rex. He is on a mission. He is a guy that wants to learn and I have high expectations.

Level: He’s got some toughness?

Smith: When I went to San Mateo, when I was there I was there watching Sam Atoe, and Levi got in a fight in practice, and I wanted to offer him. I want guys that break noses and have a chip on his shoulder. He didn’t play very well, I told him that he’s my guy. I want what I saw. He’s starting to come back to himself, I told him that I wanted that toughness and the person that I saw, excited to work with him.

Level: What about Keeland McElrath and Marcus Smith?

Smith: Keeland needs the most work, plays extremely high, he’s so big and so athletic, eyes in the backfield, a lot of bad technique stuff, but it is hard to find big athleteic guys, but he is buying in. We need him we don’t have anyone else, they have to get better.

(Marcus) Smith, he’s getting better, he has a ways to go, flexibility wise he needs to get better. He needs to lose some weight, he weighs 310, but he carries bad weight. I had him stretch, he’s got to be more active, they have to get better at pass rush and we have to get at pass rush. That’s the thing about the inside guys, they’ve got get better at pass rush, right now we’re not, it’s all technique, they can get better. We’ll get it right

Level: Talk about Breiden Fehoko, what’s that been like the first three days.

Smith: He’s been good, extremely raw, everyone has high expectations, he is strong and fast and twitchy, but I have to be careful he should be at his prom right now. He might be the strongest player on the team. He can still hang in with those guys. Just knowing coming from high school, just starting from ground zero, extremely intelligent kid. Coaching points I’ve already made some of the older guys are stuttering with answers, He can spit out answers, he knows the answer, he’s really impressive and a bright kid and it means something to him and that family.

Level: He’s very coachable.?

You can’t have baby deer skin, have to take coaching, learn to laugh at yourself and laugh at others. He wants to get better and he’s on a mission. He’s got an extremely high motor, he’s moving. The best thing he’s done in his career is coming early, because he’s so far ahead of these guys, as he’s struggled with his reads the first couple of days and that gives him a chance to play next year. I can’t be more fired up about Breiden, he’s going to be a special kid.

Level: Talk about the scheme and difference between what (defensive coordinator David) Gibbs did and Wallersted, in layman’s terms.

Smith: I think we’re a bit less 3-4, more multiple, more 4-3, I was more 3-4, he understands college players, he knows you can’t overload players. You can tell he has a good feel for calling practice, really impressed in how he calls it.

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