FAYETTEVILLE — Bumper Pool is excited for the potential of this year’s defense after two practices.
Pool had another big season in 2020. He was second on the team with 101 tackles. He had 40 solo tackles, 6.5 for loss, 0.5 sack, five pass breakups and one quarterback hurry. He talked about the intensity of the practices so far.
” Yes it really has,” Pool said of intense level of practices. “Coach (Sam) Pittman, the way he runs his program, you know he’s coaching everyone. He’s coaching us, he’s coaching his coaches. So I feel like the intensity that our position coaches put on us he puts towards them. It’s great to see and it creates such a great environment for us to practice in.”
The defense has two new assistants. One of them is Michael Scherer who is coaching the linebackers. He has made a very strong impression on Pool.
“I love him,” Pool said. “He’s so like technical and so passionate about everything. He’s been in our shoes, so when we’re in our meetings, whatever we get agitated with, he was in the same seat so he knows not to do those things. We get to our tape, he’ll rip guys. There’s such a respect between each other because we know he did it at such a high level. And we all want to ultimately get that same success. It’s been great so far and I’m looking forward to it.”
With Scherer in charge, what have been the points of emphasis this spring?
“So right now with Coach Scherer, we’re working a ton of hands,” Pool said. “Trying to get off blocks, be physical at the point of attack. That’s something that we’re going to work on every single day because those are things last year that we struggled with.”
It has just been two practices and not in full pads, but have you learned anything about the defense so far?
“So we’ve done some things with our D-line with the new D-line coach and it’s kind of made our D-line’s job easier,” Pool said. “Our communication on the back end is what’s going to make us successful if we’re all on the same page. That’s what is ultimately going to make us a top defense in the SEC. I feel like we’re all on the same page and obviously when we put pads on it’s going to be exciting.”
The fact the Hogs didn’t get to face TCU in a bowl game is still on their mind in some ways.
“I don’t think we had any takeaways today on our end of the field,” Pool said. “But I mean it’s like our whole unit is great together. It’s like we haven’t skipped a beat. When the season ended and we didn’t get to play our last game it’s kind of like that hunger is still there to play that last game throughout spring ball. So as a unit communication is unreal. It’s just like everyone is talking. It’s cool to see.”
Pittman has said the defense is going to widen the ends in hopes of getting a better pass rusher.
“We kind of dabbled with that last year,” Pool said. “We didn’t have it for sure set on what we were doing with them just because we were really multiple last year, but we’ve kind of honed in on doing a certain technique. It worked at Tulsa and I think if we can get it done right and get our D-line lined up, it’s going to open up me and Grant and it’s going to be really big for us.”
Pool talked more about trying to improve the pass rush.
“We’ve been working on like adding on whenever one of us gets the back,” Pool said. “Then the guy add on or our guy blocks trying to get to the quarterback. Just things we can do to help out since we only have three down line. We’ve got to help out in the pass rush. Ultimately that would help our safeties and DBs with as much zone as we play.”
Any of the skill position players stood out so far in practice?
“It’s good to see (Josh) Oglesby back in there at running back,” Pool said. “Obviously Treylon (Burks) and our O-line is getting physical and getting mean. Like I said when we put pads on it’s going to be exciting getting after those guys.”
Two true freshmen linebackers enrolled at midterm. Chris Paul and Marco Avant. How are they progressing?
“Marco, he hasn’t been on the field just quite yet, but Chris is starting to get it,” Pool said. “`I know like the first day we’re in the meetings rooms and of course we’re giving the freshmen their freshman welcome, and he was just kind of wide-eyed. But now he’s starting to take in the information, try to see it on the field. I think he’s going to be a special player.”
Pool also was asked about a pair of freshmen linebackers who redshirted last year. JT Towers and Kelin Burrle.
“JT and Kelin kind of came in in the same boat,” Pool said. “Their progression through knowing the defense has been big for them. I know Kelin, he’s a great person to be around and has a great personality. We want to see him be successful. He’s starting to slowly get it, and it’s exciting to see. JT, the same way.”
The 228-pound Pool talked about his own offseason goals.
“Through the offseason, my biggest thing was I didn’t necessarily get an offseason last year because of my back surgery, so this year getting a full cycle I’ve been focusing on gaining weight and ultimately my speed,” Pool said. “I feel like with Coach (Jamil) Walker really (helping me) dive in on the nutrition side of things has been huge for me. I feel healthy and I’m real excited about this upcoming season.”
The Hogs will return to the practice fields on Saturday.