Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas Tech linebacker Bront Bird has developed into one of the steadiest players on the Red Raiders’ fast improving defense.
We caught up with Bird for a few minutes to talk about the recent development of his team’s defense over the past several weeks heading into their game Saturday night against Texas A&M. Here are some of his thoughts going into the game.
What has the Tech defense been playing with so much confidence recently?
Bront Bird: We’ve been playing pretty well in recent games. As a team, we’re gaining a little swagger. We want to go out and play the best we can play. And in the last two games, the defense has really played well.
Your team beat Kansas State by 52 points. That same Kansas State team turned around and beat Texas A&M by 48 points last week. Is that going to affect your preparations for the Aggies this week?
BB: That’s just one of those things. You can’t really pay any attention to who you have beaten or who somebody else has played. Coach Leach has sign that we respect everybody and fear no one. Regardless of what they have done, we have to approach it like they’ll come out ready to play. And if we don’t do that, we run the chance of getting embarrassed. We need to play our very best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Texas Tech had a strong performance against Nebraska last week. That came at the same time there was a lot of talk about the Cornhuskers and what they had done defensively in the games previous to that one. Was their some satisfaction that your defense outplayed the Cornhuskers’ defense in that game?
BB: One thing that Coach McNeill (Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill) said was that we wanted to leave the game as the best defense on the field. We tried to do that. Nebraska had a lot of hype and it was deserved. Watching their front four was something. I don’t remember seeing them blitz in the entire game. Their front was big, strong and athletic. But we tried to be the best defense on the field.
Considering all the offensive battles that have taken place across the Big 12 in recent years, was it different having an old-fashioned defensive battle?
BB: It was so much fun. It was one of those things where both defenses felt the same way. We just felt like they wouldn’t score on us. I’m sure their defense felt the same way. They got a three-and-out and then we would get one. But I’m proud of our offense that they had a sense of timing and scoring early like they did. That helped us win the game.
What has it meant for you to have McNeill as your defensive coordinator, specifically as he has helped develop your skills?
BB: When he first came in as the defensive coordinator I was in my redshirt season. Later that year, he told me he wanted to pull my redshirt. When he asked, I told him I would do it if he promised me I could play. I’ve always had a lot of trust in him and what he does for us. He loves the people he’s around and the coaches and just loves being part of the team. He’s jumping around and giving us chest bumps to get us excited out there. He’s a special coach.
You have played both defensive end and linebacker this season. Which position do you prefer?
BB: I still play six or seven snaps a game at defensive end, I did it in the last game. To tell you the truth, I like them both. At defensive end you are just trying to work to get off the snap. And at linebacker, you get to see the entire play. At defensive end, it’s more of a one-on-one battle. I like playing both of them. It’s a blessing what Coach McNeill has done in letting me play both.
Your mother passed away recently, soon after Coach McNeill’s mother passed away as well. Did you gain some common ground with him in your relationship because of your shared losses?
BB: When my mom passed way, he was the first guy I talked to. He completely understands what happened and what I was going through at the time. We still talk about it. I think it helped us bond closer together. He understands what I’ve gone through. We have a better relationship because of it.
Your team has done a remarkable job of overcoming the struggles of your earlier two-game losing streak. How were you able to accomplish that?
BB: It’s just one of those deals where we had to decide if we would let negative things overcome us or if we would step up and rise to the challenge. That’s what we’ve done and we’ve played the same way nearly every week after that.
Coach Leach has done an unusual coaching decision of naming new captains every week, based on the vote of players. Do you think that helps the team?
BB: I like it, because it puts a lot on us and holds us all accountable. If you’re not playing well and not leading you can be replaced. I think since it’s elected every week, if you have been a part of being a captain you’d like to stay on and hold that spot. It makes you work harder.