Louisville Players ACC Media Day Q and A

As Louisville heads into its second ACC season, Cardinal players James Burgess and Sheldon Rankins discuss the campaign ahead and their thoughts on it at the ACC Media Days in Pinehurst, North Carolina. See what they had to say below. All quotes courtesy of ASAPSports.com.

Q. James, you got your taste of the ACC last year. What can you say about going into this season and how you define what this team is trying to do, what it means to have that experience?

JAMES BURGESS: The experience means a lot. Coming into the ACC, a very talented conference. You know you obviously watch film so you know what you’re getting, what to look for. To have physical experience and physical reps to know what you’re facing is very beneficial to our program.

Q. Losing so many guys to the NFL, what is the mood of the team, the focus of the team?

JAMES BURGESS: Just everyone working together. We lost a lot of guys. We lost our entire secondary with Charles Gaines, Terrell Floyd, Gerod Holliman led the nation in interceptions, James Sample, who led the team in tackles. Great coaching, great recruiting, you have depth behind the players. They learn so when they get in the game, they’re ready to seize their opportunities.

Q. James, what did you think about all the guys getting drafted? When you were playing last season, did you think you had 10 draft picks on the team? Was that more or less what you expected?

JAMES BURGESS: I thought Dominique Brown would actually get drafted as well. I expected everybody to get drafted. We had really great players. We hope to fill the roster this year with that many draft picks. It gives you chills knowing that the player you played with last year is in the NFL. Makes you want to play harder so you can become one of those guys.

Q. Y’all open the season with Auburn, then Clemson 12 days later. Does the off-season feel like there’s more of a sense of urgency? Those might be two of the best offenses in the country this season. Particularly for the defense, do you feel a sense of urgency preparing for such a fast start?

JAMES BURGESS: Of course, this off-season is the hardest off-season we’ve ever had. We’re preparing as hard as we ever did, mentally, physically, getting bigger, faster, stronger as we possibly can get. Three games in 12 days, offense-heavy teams. It gives us an extra edge, extra push in the off-season when we’re in the weight room, doing conditioning. It makes us work even harder.

Q. Talk about how spoiled you were with Holliman, those 14 interceptions last year, what it was like almost every time they passed the ball it’s going the other way?

JAMES BURGESS: That was a great experience, just watching a guy I knew before I even got to college, accomplishing his goals. It wasn’t a secret. He did the same thing in high school. He had 14 picks in high school his senior year as well. It wasn’t by surprise. But it was very exciting to see a hometown friend do as good as he did.

Q. With such a high-profile opener against Auburn, do you find yourself watching more film than you would normally? Do you know them in greater detail than some other opponents you’ve played?

JAMES BURGESS: Yeah, I’d say to have the whole off-season to prepare for them, I’ve been watching them this whole off-season. Last night I was in the hotel watching their plays. I study their plays a lot. Trying to find any tendencies, any keys I can find.

Q. Confident you found some?

JAMES BURGESS: Yes, sir (smiling).

Q. James, you’ve had a pretty nice couple weeks. A lot of award watch lists. How do you handle that and not let it go to your head?

JAMES BURGESS: Just doing what got me there, you know, working hard, having a good relationship with my teammates, not letting it get to my head, staying humble, doing what I do that got me there. Talking to my parents, they always keep me humble. Just praying to God and giving thanks to God.

Q. Do you try to take your game up? Is there something about the scheme this year that will allow you to do more?

JAMES BURGESS: I do whatever I do where I can to help the team. Tackles stats really isn’t important to me. With coach, I was in the box more, 4-3, protecting a lot more. We have more defensive linemen on the field. Coach Grantham I’m covering receivers, tight ends out on the backfield. I don’t look at stats. That doesn’t amaze me. I just do what I can to help the team win.

Q. We have a lot of mobile quarterbacks in the ACC. How does that affect you in trying to contain them, those offenses?

JAMES BURGESS: Playing a scrambling quarterback is always difficult to prepare for. You want to be perfect in pass coverage. We have a great defensive line, Sheldon Rankins, DeAngelo Brown, we have good pass-rushers like Marcus Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin. Just containing them is a hard thing. No one really likes facing a scrambling quarterback, but you do what you have to do to win the game.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We’re now joined by Sheldon Rankins. Questions for Sheldon.

Q. The defense lost a lot of guys, except for that D-line. A lot of you guys came back. That continuity, how does it help and how does it change the defense?

SHELDON RANKINS: It definitely helps a lot. With us in the trenches, only losing one guy. A lot of guys got experience, Kyle Shortridge, guys like that. With the addition of Drew Bailey at the midway point is going to be a big help as well. PO came along in the spring a lot as well. Even with just the front seven in general. Yes, we lost Mauldin and Mount, but Trevon Young got a lot of reps, Finesse Middleton go a lot of reps, guys like that. James Hearns got a lot of reps. Guys got reps and guys were able to learn behind a great group of guys and should be able to translate that into success.

Q. James was up there talking about watching film last night. I don’t know if you were or not. How long do you ever get away from football? Is it always on your mind? Do you do something every day to get better?

SHELDON RANKINS: Yeah, I definitely do something every day to get better. The only time I get away from it is when I’m sleeping (laughter). It’s usually on my mind at some point throughout the day. I’m kind of similar in that sense. If I’m sitting there and I don’t have anything to do, we have iPads. I’ll pull out the iPad, log into the account, go watch some film. There’s always something you can find on film and I’m always looking for it. Like I said, unless I’m asleep, football’s on my mind in some capacity.

Q. Eight sacks, almost 14 tackles for a loss last season. How much do you put it on your abilities and how much do you give credit to the rest of the D-line?

SHELDON RANKINS: Obviously I bang the table for my abilities every day. Without those guys, I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do. If I was the only guy out there able to make plays, you know, those guys would be coming free because they wouldn’t be worried about them. Those guys go out there and do their job as well. It makes it easier on me. I’m able to go out there sometimes and get one-on-ones, I’m able to capitalize on those.

Q. Sheldon, you talked about the front seven, how confident you are in that group? Flipside of that is you lost your entire secondary. How much more pressure is there for you to get to the quarterback?

SHELDON RANKINS: You know, on the surface it can seem that way. But, you know, Trumaine Washington got a lot of experience. We have Shaq Wiggins, from Georgia. He played a lot as a true freshman at Georgia. Josh Harvey-Clemons played a lot at Georgia. Chucky Williams learned from Gerod and Sample, Calvin Pryor. Those guys have the tools and the knowledge. They might not have all the reps within this defense, but they have the tools and knowledge. They’ll be able to go out there and I have no doubt they’ll be able to succeed.

Q. You talked about watching tape. How much video do you watch of yourself or your team to make yourself better?

SHELDON RANKINS: You know, that’s really what I really use the off-season for. Yes, I’ve been breaking down Auburn film since they released the schedule, since I knew we were playing Auburn. But a lot of times I’ll just pop in the Miami game or the Florida State game or the Clemson game, just any game, period, and just look at me throughout the game, evaluating myself, evaluating my technique, evaluating things I know I can get better on. That’s why you play the game. You play the game to get the best, the most out of yourself. If you’re not holding yourself accountable for all the mistakes you make, only looking at the good things you did, you’re not getting any better as a player.