I had a chance to catch up with UConn linebacker Sio Moore earlier this week as the Huskies prepare to take on West Virginia on Saturday. Moore had 3.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss this season, and also has been all over the field for the Huskies. Here is a little of what he had to say.
You guys have had a tough time late in games. How do you go about stressing “finishing”?
Sio Moore: It all starts with preparation. (Tuesday) was one of our best days of practice all year for every player. Whether everything was right or wrong, everybody was getting after it, that right there lets you know we all are committed to getting things fixed. Everybody is frustrated, and it kinda looks like the same situation as last year. We don’t want it to be similar, we don’t want to be in that situation again. How you practice sets the tempo for the game. Practice is supposed to be hard so when you get to the game, it’s supposed to be easy.
You have two new linebackers starting next to you, Jory Johnson and Yawin Smallwood. How have they done?
SM: Jory and Yawin are doing great. Jory is a smart player. He’s always around the ball, one of the smarter linebackers. He knows how to get things done. Yawin is working his tail off, making things happen. It’s good playing next to those guys.
What has it been like gaining a chemistry with them?
SM: We’re definitely getting closer. Part of playing defense with a unit of guys is learning and knowing how each different set of guy plays, from the defensive line to linebackers to the secondary. It’s been a building process. We just have to keep working, keep working and building with each other. As long as we do that we’ll be fine.
Last week you had some breakdowns in pass defense. How do you correct those before playing another good passing team in West Virginia?
SM: Making sure you’re completely fundamental in all your techniques, paying attention to the details and routes receivers run. Half the battle is being able to line up and the other half is executing. This week has been about the little things, play recognition and playing fast.
One thing you have done well on defense is stopping the run, ranking No. 2 in the Big East. What has been the biggest key there?
SM: Stopping the run is about passion. How bad do you really want it? It’s a gross feeling to have somebody run all over the defense. Stopping the pass is one thing, but when you have somebody legit running the ball on your defense, that’s a pride thing and we’re not going to let that happen.
What has the adjustment been like under new coordinator Don Brown?
SM: We’re a defense where coaches told us from day one to solve your problems with aggression. We live and die by that motto. We want to get to the quarterback, run to the ball and cause chaos. It’s a style that really fits us. We like to get after it, we like to cause turnovers and make big plays. We have to make sure we execute on all levels.
It’s been a disappointing start, but now you can focus on conference play. Is this sort of like a fresh start for you guys?
SM: Everybody’s taking it one game at a time and making sure we do everything day by day and play by play to get better. We can’t worry about the big picture. We have to worry about all the little tools in the toolbox to make the machine works. If we do that, we’ll be all set. This game is a game where you can’t dwell on anything. We have to learn from our mistakes and get ready for this game. We know they’ve got a chip on their shoulder from last year. We have to make sure we go out and handle our business.
How about for you? Your start to the season has been great. Where can you get better?
SM: I just know that there’s more and more things I have to get better at. In the position I’m at, I do a lot of things. I have to make sure I’m a technician at everything I do. I’m not big on grading my performance because I know there’s so much that needs to be done. I’m my own biggest critic. I know I can work on fundamentals and techniques, being able to play the run, using my hands. Playing linebacker, you can never not work any part of your game. You have to work on every part to get better each day.