A new face for a new defense
Daily Vanguard: What has impressed you the most about the team since you arrived in January?
Eric Jackson: I think it’s just their overall eagerness and enthusiasm to be coached—and to get better. You never know, when a transition comes in, how guys are going to be. Is this going to be like pulling teeth? Are they going to want to change? But from day one, when I went out for winter conditioning in the weight room, the guys were pretty eager to get going and they wanted to get better.
DV: Who made the decision to switch from the 3–4 defense to the 4–3 defense?
EJ: [Laughs] That was the head coach[Nigel Burton].
DV: What exactly does the switch mean?
EJ: That just means four defensive linemen and they’re going to attack up the field. We are going to have guys aggressively coming downhill as linebackers and as safeties. We’re going to play a lot of press coverage as corners. It’s really going to be pressure-packed in terms of people being in someone’s face all of the time.
That element can be a little intimidating when you’re on offense and you’re looking at your options, where you’re going to run, where you’re going to throw, and there’s a body there. And it’s a good body and people are constantly attacking. There aren’t a lot of windows for you to execute and be successful.
DV: How familiar with the 4–3 were you coming here?
EJ: We ran it when I was coach at Idaho. We ran it when I was coach at Cincinnati a long time ago. We ran it at Cal Poly, that was our base, and we did elements of it at Princeton. So I’ve done it everywhere I’ve been.
DV: How will it hold up against Big Sky opponents?
EJ: I think it still gives us a great deal of flexibility. It lets us be very aggressive.
Our main focus is always stopping the run, and we’re hoping that all of the students come to the games so they can give us a good chant whenever we get a chance to line up to stop the run. But there’s no difference in the flexibility. We’re going to be just as athletic, just as fast, I guess as any other defense.
DV: So, as we are watching Vikings football this coming season, what can we expect the defensive signature to be?
EJ: You know, the thing you want—you want that…Are you old enough for the movie Jaws?
DV: I have seen it, but you really aren’t supposed to ask things about a lady’s age.
EJ: Well, I’m old so we just do what we do.
You know that fear that people had when they heard that theme music come on? We want that anticipation. I mean, shoot, if the pep band plays that, our defense sticks a play, it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, they’re going to get after these people.’ Especially when it comes to third down, and it’s key to get our offense back the ball, we want that kind of anticipation. Shoot, what a mistake they made coming out onto the field. The defense is about to throttle them down because we know [the defense] is going to attack the heck out of them. That’s the kind of anticipation we want. Just think of that Jaws theme and the anticipation that something is going to happen to you and it’s going to be good for us.
DV: You’ve been out on the east coast for quite some time. What makes you the happiest about being back on the west coast?
EJ: Change is always good, I think that’s the biggest thing. I think people are nice on both oceans. But my kids are here and that’s the most important thing to me—I’m close to them.