Oct. 21, 2007
Sophomore DE Alex Albright has recorded 15 solo tackles and a team-high six sacks through seven games this season, establishing himself as an integral part of BC's defensive unit. The Cincinnati, OH, native has played in every game since arriving on campus as a freshman last year. Albright and the third-ranked Eagles (7-0, 3-0 ACC) travel to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Through seven games, the team has a perfect record. In short, what do you believe has been the key to the team's success thus far?
I feel like the way the team has bonded has been the key. There are a lot of older guys so there's a lot of leadership. I feel like they're really taking the younger guys under their wing and showing them the way that the program has survived through the years. Through that, everyone is coming together as one unit and I feel like that's our strength.
You stepped right in as a true freshman in 2006, playing in 13 games and making 20 tackles. Already this season you've made 19 stops, including six sacks and seven tackles for loss. What's the difference between last year and this year?
Last year, I wasn't seeing as much time. We moved the defense around a little bit more this year to cope with certain situations that have occurred, like B.J. Raji being out. I feel that Coach Spaziani puts me in a really good position to make these types of plays. If anyone were bored enough to go back and look at those plays, I'm really unblocked on most of them, so it's really an element of good play-calling. So I attribute that mostly to Coach.
Can you identify one or two things that you learned in your first season and what you've done to improve/implement any changes that might have been needed?
The biggest thing I've worked on is to not get as down on myself as I used to. In my very first game, I made a big mistake that caused DeJuan Tribble to fumble the ball on a punt and it sparked a comeback. I was really down on myself the whole game, but I feel like guys like Nick Larkin have really helped me develop that and made it not my Achilles heel anymore. So now I'm able to move on and get better at things.
The offense has seen some substantive changes because of the coaching change. You have Coach Spaziani back as your defensive coordinator. Has the defensive unit had to make any adjustments from last year - or are things pretty much the same?
It's pretty much the same as last year. The two new coaches have done a really good job coming in, picking up the system, and being able to be masters of it to teach us. With Coach McGovern and Coach Spaz being there, it really helps to keep things sound and how they were before, without a lot of jumping around here and there.
Talk about Jeff Comissiong, your position coach. Tell us about his philosophy and his approach.
He pretty much demands perfection. We get position grades based on how well we did in the game and you see a big difference between his grading scale and the grading scale of the previous coach, Coach Willis. He's a lot heavier grader, like stepping the wrong way will get you a minus on a play. It's good and bad. He definitely also makes positive comments and things for you to build on to try to make you better.
You've recorded six sacks already this season. What's been the key to getting to the quarterback?
Like I said, Coach Spaz's play-calling, and also with Coach Comissiong, I feel like he's helped me. My pass-rush moves last year were kind of raw, but he's helping me develop them a lot better, working with me all the time in practice. We focus on one particular move each week or each practice and really try to develop that. I feel like that's been the key and made me a lot more diverse.
Can you explain defensive line play? How much of it is individual, one-on-one play and how much is it a cooperative effort?
I want to say for the most part, it's really one-on-one. But for the defense as whole, everyone has to cooperate and do their thing or a play could break wide open. But defensive line play is really one-on-one and I feel like it's a lot tougher than people think, especially for someone like me who's completely undersized and getting knocked around by people who weigh 70 pounds more than I do. It's a big solo battle where you really have to play your technique well or you could easily get put on your back.
Give us a few thoughts on your fellow defensive ends - Jim Ramella, Nick Larkin and Austin Giles. Do you all try to do the same thing or do each of you play to your own strength?
I feel like everyone is supposed to play the same, but everyone kind of relies on their own strength to get them by until they really develop their weaknesses. Even Nick (Larkin), he's been around forever, and he still has his weaknesses and he relies on his strengths. I feel like that's what we do to get us by and during the week is when we work on the things that we're not very good at. Nick is really good at staying low. That's something you get from being here a while. You really develop and learn how to stay low and that's huge when taking on someone who's a lot stronger, a lot bigger than you. It's all a game of leverage, so that's really his strength. Austin's (Giles) desire to get to the ball is his strength. On film, he's out of position a lot, but he's going a million miles an hour and it helps him a lot of times turn plays from a minus into a plus. Jim (Ramella) is coming off his shoulder surgery. He didn't play at all last year, but it's like he was never even gone. He worked so hard in the off-season. He' strong, he's fast; he really has the whole package. He has no real weak point and everything seems to be good and strong.
How about Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who is widely acknowledged as the leader of the defense? Talk about his play on the field and his leadership on and off the field.
On the field, if you mess up, Jo-Lonn makes you right. If you mess up, either he or another linebacker will make you right, but it's mainly Jo-Lonn. He's able to see offenses and how things are rolling. It kind of amazes me how smart he is at picking out certain things and realizing what the play is going to be before the ball is even snapped. That's really how he contributes on the field as a leader. Off the field, he tries to make sure everyone is together and everyone is really personable with each other, talking, joking around. So he also works hard keeping the team together and working as one group on and off the field.
As a defensive end, what's your role - on a running play? on a passing play?
On run, sometimes we call stunts where I have to move around and stuff, but mainly my job is to hit the tackle, but still keep outside leverage, because if the ball bounces to the outside I have to run to the ball. If I widen out a lot, too, that could also create seams for a running back to take off wherever. It makes it really hard on the linebackers, too. So mainly just to stay my ground with outside leverage on a run. On pass, sometimes we do drop our defensive ends, sometimes we drop our tackles. It's kind of Coach Spaz's thing to keep offenses guessing. I'd say I rush most of the time. That's probably why I have a lot of sacks, because I'm mainly the person rushing instead of the other end. Nick is usually the one dropping back.
Your focus is obviously on the defensive side of the ball, but you must have an appreciation for the team's offensive. How much of a help - physically and mentally - is it to know you have Matt Ryan at quarterback and an offensive unit that can put points on the scoreboard?
It takes away a lot of worry in the game. Early on, when we'd start getting down by seven or 14 points, I really wasn't worried at all because I knew that Matt would rally his team together. He keeps them together and I feel like he can spark a comeback as easily as anyone ever. I'm really not worried when he's on the field because I know that he'll do good things and put up points.
When you're not in class or on the field, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
I like to play a lot of Halo. I'm kind of a Halo guy. A lot of guys on the team get together after practice and create a party room and play some Halo. I like to watch a lot of movies. Mark Herzlich and I watch a lot of movies. We've actually been into a TV series right now. We started watching Weeds a lot. It's on Showtime and it's pretty good.
Interview conducted by sophomore Geoffrey Kehlmann