Defensive Character Has Horton Impressed
July 31, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. – Like the rest of the senior class, defensive lineman Donald Horton is preparing for his final pre-season training camp before entering his final campaign on the gridiron.
As summer workouts come to a close and the commencement of Fall Camp nears, Horton discussed the focus of his off-season, expectations for the upcoming season and offered a defensive perspective on the Arizona offense.
What has been your main focus from the end of last season through this summer?
“I have changed positions from last season. I have moved to defensive end from nose guard. I’m happy with the change; I guess it will allow us to get the best combinations of players on the field. With my quickness I can play end and with Mana (Mikaele) coming back to play nose guard, we have a great player ready to step back in. The biggest thing for me is making sure I have all of my plays and assignments down pat. It’s not a huge change, but it’s one of those things where in the heat of battle you want to be completely confident in yourself and your teammates when you’re making calls at the line and getting ready for each play.
Has anything changed for the defense since last season?
“I think we’re a tighter unit. The biggest thing is our character has changed over the years and we are all working together. Our attitude is right and we understand what we are expected to do on and off the field. We have everything in place to be a great defense including our size, strength and speed. We’ve been working really hard in the weight room with Coach Edmond, and we need to make sure we carry that to the field.”
What is the defense doing to avoid a “complacent” season like the 2007 defense had when expectations were high but the results were inconsistent?
“I really think the biggest difference is our character. Back then, we had a completely different type of group of guys compared to now. We were talented, but we didn’t exactly do everything the right way. The character we have now is that we are all doing things the right way on the field, off the field and always work together. I think the coaches saw it back then (2007) even though the media continued to talk about how good the defense was supposed to be. The coaches were on us on all the time about not being what we should be. They knew we were pretty good, but not there yet. I think the coaches trust us more now and they are even more lenient with us because they know we are going to get things right. We can correct ourselves and be accountable enough without the coaches having to tell us first.'
As a senior, do you accept more of a leadership role now? Who are the other defensive leaders?
“I think Earl Mitchell and I have taken good leadership of the defensive line. It’s important for us to do so because of our experience. Cam Nelson sort of spearheads the leadership for the whole defense as a vocal guy, but he is really good working with the secondary in particular. Xavier Kelley is has taken his role with the linebackers. I think we have good balance in our leadership and the key thing is we all work together very well.”
How do you see the offense coming together this year?
“I feel like we can be really good again. As everyone knows, the key will be finding a quarterback to lead the offense and make the plays. We have three very capable guys in Matt Scott, Nick Foles and Bryson Beirne. Matt has more experience and more confidence than a year ago. Nick has learned a lot and is a very good passer. Bryson knows the offense like the back of his hand and is very steady. But one of them needs to separate himself. All of them are really blessed with the offensive line and a great group of running backs and receivers. The running game can take some pressure off their position, and the receivers can go up and get balls even if they aren’t perfectly thrown.”
As a defensive lineman, you battle the offensive line daily. Last year’s O-Line was a pretty special unit, but has a couple key contributors gone. How does this year’s unit look?
“I never really worry about the offensive line. The reason I say that so confidently is because they are like a real family. They do everything together. They work out hard together, they eat together, they do stuff away from football together. That may not seem like a big thing to a lot of people, but it’s huge for chemistry. Chemistry is really important at that position and they are very close.
“A good group is coming back, too. Colin Baxter will anchor the middle of the line at center. Adam Grant is very good at right tackle. Vaughn Dotsy is ready to play at guard. I think Conan Amituanai has really stepped up. He may have made the most improvement of anyone in the spring. With him at guard Mike Diaz can move out to left tackle. And there are a lot of other guys who are going to push hard – some with experience some without experience. I don’t worry about them at all and there is definitely some depth there to make it pretty stable again.”