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Coach Ward Talks New Role, Building a Program

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Ward_10.16.10_194_AS.jpgWe caught up with new defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward earlier this week to talk about his new role, what he wants to focus on with the defense this spring, new linebackers coach Kirk Botkin, and more. Check out his take on who will step up as impact players on defense here.

BL: A lot of fans have been talking about what the defense will look like next year compared to the past few seasons. Can you shed some light on that?

LW: It won't be much different. The scheme part of the 4-2-5 defense will still be the same. I think the difference in what we are going to do is we are going to be in more of an attack mode than we've been in the past. We'll probably run more blitzes than we did before and a little more stunting than we did before but the structure of the defense will be the same.

Do you feel like you have more quality depth on the defense now than maybe in past years?

I think people that say we lost a lot of good players, which we did. You lose guys like Travian [Robertson], Antonio Allen and Stephon [Gilmore] goes out early and Melvin Ingram was a big part of what we did on defense this year, but we've got some guys that we feel can step up and make the plays, same plays that they made.  It's good to have a lot of players back on defense. Even though we've lost some key ingredients we feel like we can replace them with the guys we've got coming back.

Tell me more about new linebackers coach Kirk Botkin and working with him at Arkansas. 

Kirk has a very similar personality to me. He'll like to have fun. The thing that South Carolina fans are gonna love about Kirk is that he can relate to his players well. They're gonna love him and they are gonna wanna play hard for him. He has a tremendous amount of knowledge of the game. I got to work with him for a year and saw that. With the ideas that he threw on the table at Arkansas, it was easy for me to pick up the phone to call Kirk when this opportunity arose. It's going to be exciting. He's like Shawn Elliott to me and I think that Kirk is gonna be that guy for us on defense.

There have been a lot of "firsts" lately for this program that we talk about a lot. What do some of those mean to you personally, like the first SEC Eastern Division Championship, the first time getting to 11 wins?

Anytime you do something for the first time is something that will be remembered.  It's like Coach says all the time, you can go to Alabama, now with 14 championships and you can say well, what you gonna do, I'm gonna be the guy to win their fifteenth. You know, 14 different teams did it before you so why not be the first. The first is a big thing when you're building a program.  Coach Spurrier is trying to build this program the right way and you can take pride in creating firsts and I think that motivates the young men. So, if we can keep selling that and it keep working for us and we keep doing it then it's only going to continue to make this program go where we want it to go.

Do you think that plays into recruiting a lot too because now you have evidence of these things? Something concrete to point to?

I think that is a great point.  We recruit young men that schools like Alabama and Georgia are recruiting too and we're starting to get some of those athletes that in the past we didn't because now they can see that some firsts are happening. They see we won the Eastern Division in 2010, they see for the first time that we've won 11 ball games in this tough conference. They know that we're on the verge of, if we keep recruiting, of doing something even bigger and better.

Speaking of building a program, right now obviously the focus is on recruiting, how busy have y'all been just in the past few weeks?

I should be on the road tonight but my wife's mother is sick so she went home and I'm taking care of my son.  It's good to even have a day break but I'll be back on the road in the morning and we'll close this week out. Signing Day is February 1st so if we can keep the guys that we have committed, we feel like we have a great recruiting class to add on to what we have done in the past.  It's been very busy but that's part of the job.

In your new position, do you know yet what is going to be your most important focus for spring practice?

Developing leadership. We know we have players and ability but we want to gain experience with the younger guys and we want to find out who is going to be the leaders of this team.

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