ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio football team opened up the third of five weeks of spring ball with a morning practice inside Walter Fieldhouse today.
Following practice, OhioBobcats.com caught up with redshirt junior linebacker Jared Dorsa (Kings Mills, Ohio) for a question-and-answer session.
Dorsa is coming off of a 2018 season in which he ranked fourth on the team with 59 total tackles (26 solo, 33 assisted) -- including 3.5 for loss. He also picked off two passes and forced a fumble.
How do you think the defense has performed so far in spring ball?
"I think we're doing really well right now. We're coming back with a pretty good amount of experience. Young guys are looking good right now. We're flying around and making a lot of plays."
With the retirement of Jimmy Burrow, Ron Collins has moved from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator, and Nathan Faanes has moved from graduate assistant to linebackers coach. What has playing for Coach Faanes been like so far?
"We're really comfortable with him, which is a huge plus with him becoming our position coach. There was no getting-to-know-you type of thing. It's been pretty easy to just get right back into the groove of things with him."
Has your position group set goals ahead of the 2019 season?
"Linebackers, we want to be the best in the MAC every year, and that's the goal. I think we have the talent to do that this year."
What personal goals have you set for yourself in 2019?
"I applied to be a captain of the team. I want to be All-MAC this year. I just want to help the team win any way I can. The ultimate goal is to win the MAC. Whatever I can do to help the team win the MAC, I'll do."
What have you learned from competing alongside great players at your position here at Ohio such as Blair Brown and Quentin Poling?
"Coming in as a young guy with Blair and 'Q' Poling here, they kind of just showed me how to work. What you need to do to be at that level. Those guys were always in the film room, always in the weight room. They were great role models in that way. They knew so much about the defense. They helped teach us and kind of bring us along, next-generation type of thing. They knew the people beneath them had to be ready to go. That's what we're trying to do right now with the younger guys, is keep everybody on the same page, keep everybody moving along so as a whole linebacker core, everybody is ready to go at all times."
The defense got off to a bit of a slow start last season but finished the year strong. How do you start strong right out of the gate in 2019?
"I think a lot of that had to do with youth last year. I think this year, we're going in with more experience. That will help, too. I think our communication was low. Communication is such a big part of a defense. I think we struggled a little bit with everybody being on the same page. Myself included. I definitely need to keep working on that, keep making sure that everybody knows what's going on at all times. I think a big part of starting fast is just everybody working well as a group and being on the same page every play."
Are there any players you look up to or try to emulate your game after?
"My favorite linebacker is Luke Kuechly by far. He's just a genius on and off the field. He's freaky athletic. I like to say that I model by game after him. He's hard to mimic, but he's definitely the guy I try to be like."
The defense led the nation in turnovers gained a year ago. What was the key to that success?
"Last year, we definitely added huge emphasis of every single play, somebody is trying to get a strip attempt. In our meetings, we would track that. It just kind of made you self-aware of the ball. Going into this year, we've continued to push that. We've continued to emphasize batted balls, playing with your hands up, trying to get your hands on the ball, tips and overthrows. Coach Collins added a new turnover circuit. That's been really awesome. It's five or six different drills. The big thing is ball awareness. We're always trying to give the ball back to our offense. Second guy to ball, try to get the ball out."
What are the keys to the team winning a conference championship in 2019?
"We've got to start fast and finish fast. Last year was a great example. We kind of started slow and kind of showed some of our weaknesses. We picked it up, but I think we still had some of those weaknesses that we kind of let ruin what we had going. I think this year, the big thing is going to be to start fast and keep that momentum. Work together well as a team and stay up on each other. The offense is going to turn the ball over; we've got to be up. We're (the defense) going to allow touchdowns; they (the offense) has to stay up. It's going to be a lot of just staying positive and help each other out. Turnovers are always huge. More possessions for our offense is going to be helpful."
Ohio will hold its eighth of 15 practices this spring on Thursday (March 28) beginning at 8 a.m. ET. Following practice, the program will host its annual pro day as draft-eligible Bobcats will work out for scouts and representatives from NFL franchises ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft.