With a name like Bront Bird, you'd think he'd be a professional bull rider. As Texas Tech's starting strongside linebacker, he's about the next closest thing. The fact that this perhaps slightly overlooked recruit has ascended to a starting position so quickly (he is only a true sophomore) suggests that the bulls are lucky Bird didn't choose to pursue a career in their area.
The Odessa product surprised many observers by avoiding a redshirt last season, and then seeing extensive playing time. That playing time increased as the season went along, and with the move of Brian Duncan to middle linebacker, Bird now slides smoothly into the starting lineup. And according to Bird, the benefits of getting to go through spring drills for the first time are considerable.
"When you come into fall camp, you're obviously getting ready for the season, so spring ball helps so much because they [the coaches] slow everything down and you get everything explained through and through, many times, and they break it down, whereas opposed to fall camp, you know, you're just kinda thrown into the mix," Bird informs.
"You're out there kinda thinking, am I doing this or am I doing that? Right now, I feel very comfortable out there and I'm just excited to get the pads on."
Certainly, one of the primary reasons for Bird's rapid success and his high comfort-level, is his high football IQ. That and the physical gifts that allow the brains to matter.
"[My] strengths? I'm fast and I'm big and everything like that. And I'm really smart so I recognize plays easily and stuff like that."
But as Bird readily acknowledges, he does have room for improvement.
"Right now I just have to work on defeating blocks. That's something that I focused on a lot last fall, so that's what I'm focusing on again in the spring, getting off blocks at all times. That's something that we all have to work on. I mean, that's one of the biggest parts of the game is defeating blocks and then making tackles."
Assuming that the defense successfully improves its overall ability to shed blocks, Bird fully believes that this unit will be better than its immediate predecessor. The psychological chemistry is better, the speed is better, and the scheme calls for more aggression.
"First of all, mainly it [the defensive difference from last year] is just the attitude of everything, you know," Bird asserts.
"We're putting in more blitzes and blitzes and really, like I said, it's just the attitude. And other than that, we're just extremely fast this year. We've got a lot of speed, a lot of 40 times during training was extremely fast. That's what we're looking forward to is implementing that and using our speed in the game and blitzing people and heating it up and just running after the ball at all times."
Of all the changes in the defense, perhaps none is more important than the attitude adjustment Bird mentions. Whereas previous defenses were a bit fatalistic, the new Tech defense expects to be fatal to the opposition.
"We expect to dominate every play, I guess is the best way to put it," states Bird.
"We don't accept anything less than that. I guess in the past it was kinda, you know, whatever happens happens. Now, you know, you have expectations from your coaches and from your fellow players, and if you don't live up to them you can be replaced."
If you think you are picking up from Bird's words hints of the damage of low expectations regarding previous defenses, you would be correct. Fortunately, that nonsense now seems to be a thing of the past. No longer will the Red Raider defense go into the Texas game hoping merely to hold the Horns under 40 points. Bird and the boys will be aiming for a shutout. And whether they get it or not is really immaterial. The expectations of great success will call forth greater effort, which, in turn, will bring success. And maybe, just maybe, Bront Bird will wind up riding a few steers after all.
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