Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers, the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the week, took a few minutes to chat with the Pac-12 blog about last week's win over USC, the team's work-in-progress transition to the 3-3-5 and his role in moving from safety to linebacker.
How do you guys not get too high as a team after the kind of win you had last week?
Marquis Flowers: You definitely have to take it one game at a time. This is Pac-12 football and anything can happen any Saturday. That's how we think of it. We just have to go out and play football because we've been through the tough losses. We've lost to two ranked opponents, one play away, and that always sits with us. I think we'll be alright.
I know there is a 24-hour rule to be happy with a win or frustrated with a loss. Did you take a few more hours to enjoy last week's win?
MF: Nah. I treated it like every other game. It's a great win. It's one of those wins that's going to be on ESPN all week. But we have to focus on UCLA. We have to. My focus always turns to the next team right after the game. It was a great win and a great win for the program. If we can keep getting wins, better things can happen. That's our focus.
Two picks last week and a forced fumble. What's working for you?
MF: I think I'm believing in what the coaches are telling me. We're working hard in practice. I'm working hard at tackling and putting my head on the ball. I'm watching a lot of film and trying to find my opponent's weaknesses. I'm just making attempts to get the ball and it's working for me right now.
How much have your safety instincts helped since moving down to linebacker?
MF: It definitely helps. When the ball is in the air, I go up and catch the ball at the highest point. My body just does it without me even thinking about it. I see the ball in the air and I go up and get it. It helps me in coverage. I take pride when I have to cover a tight end in the slot. But I still need to learn a lot about being a linebacker and there's a lot I need to improve on.
What's been the toughest transition to linebacker?
MF: Probably learning to play more downhill and using my hands. Sometimes I get caught in a safety mode where I'm back reading the play and that can hurt the defense. I need to keep attacking and going downhill and using my hands and holding plays to shorter yardage. It's a work in progress.
I know the 3-3-5 can be tough to learn because there are so many layers to this defense. How far have you guys come as a unit?
MF: For the first year, I think we've picked it up well. There are still little things that we mess up on. And when you mess up the little things, sometimes that can go for a big play. We're still working on it. I think we do great against spread teams, but we have a little tougher time with the traditional power teams that line up in the I-formation and pound it down. But I think we're getting better. We're learning every game and we're believing in our calls and we're starting execute.
It's a pretty high-risk, high-reward defense and like you said, misses can lead to big plays. But it can also create some turnovers.
MF: Definitely. And it gets you a lot of speed on the field, too, so that's always good. If something gets to the outside, we can get there. That's why I think we've been better against spread teams because the bubbles and outside screens, we have a lot of speed swarming to the ball. Overall, we're coming along.