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July 18, 2007

Big East Media Day Notebook II

NEWPORT, R.I. Free food. Free drink. No thanks.

That was the answer that Pittsburgh defensive lineman Joe Clermond gave when it was time for dessert at the Big East annual clambake at the Eisenhower Estate in Newport. Clermond also passed on soft drinks all night, opting for water.

This is part of the commitment that Clermond has adopted for the upcoming season.

"I want any extra edge I can get, and hopefully it will pay off," the second team all-Big East player said. "I have been working with (Pitt strength and conditioning coach) Buddy Morris a lot. The way he teaches you to work and then keep working it is a different mindset than I had last year. It is an animal mentality."

Last year is not something Clermond should be ashamed of as he led the Panthers in sacks and tackles for a loss. However, the senior leader is expecting much more from himself and his teammates in 2007. He has even been spending time in the freshman dorms making sure the young guys are aware of what it takes to compete at the collegiate level.

"I have been talking with Tony Tucker, making sure he has his mind right." Clermond said of his trips to campus. "I'm letting him know you can still have fun but also showing him it is time to come in and work."

Bearcat attack

Apparently all the experts were fooled by the Cincinnati defense of a year ago, that is if you listen to Bearcats defensive captain Haruki Nakamura.

"We actually did not blitz as much as people want to believe," Nakamura said. "It was just a well-disguised scheme. Our linebackers and safeties played so fast and downhill it just looked like we were always sending people or had nine in the box.

"We actually will be blitzing much more this year. We will be playing more three-deep and will be running those type of zone blitzes. In a way it will look the same and we won't miss a beat because we are used to playing fast."

All of this is bad news for Bearcats opponents as last seasons "non-blitzing" squad was third in the Big East in total defense, allowing just 309 yards per game under former head coach Mark Dantonio.

UConn do it

Two of the biggest believers in UConn football are two of the team's six captains, Larry Taylor and his former quarterback-turned-wide-receiving-corps partner D.J. Hernandez.

Both players have high hopes for returning the program to the bowl-caliber team it proved to be in 2004.

"We have the talent, we are all on the same page, and we are focused on the goal ahead." Hernandez said. "We feel as though we have everything it takes to be successful, it is just a matter of taking what we are individually good at and doing what coach is trying to get us to do and executing."

Taylor echoed those sentiments.

"This is a team that can do great things," Taylor said. "We just need to stay focused and complete the mission."

Come see us play

One of the most pleasant players on the day was Syracuse pass-rush specialist Jameel McClain. McClain led the Big East in sacks last season with 9.5, and he spoke on a wide variety of topics from Dwight Freeney to incoming freshmen.

McClain's personality was nothing short of infectious, and at 6 feet 1, 252 pounds he more than stands out in a crowd. Now, he says he wants all current and former Syracuse fans to come and see his team play.

"Come to the Washington game," McClain said. "If you are a fan, come. If you used to be a fan, come. Even if you know a fan and you want to be a fan like they are a fan, come to the Washington game. Give us that chance then decide. Come see how we have progressed. Come bring the energy and then decide. I do know this, if you are a fan you'll stay a fan, and if you used to be a fan we want you back."


After making his decision to come back to school, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm admitted he did feel a little vindicated by the draft results.

"I had to take a look at the financial side of it," the Heisman candidate said. "I had to evaluate where I thought I would be in the draft.

"What happened in the draft is kind of what I thought was going to happen, so I felt good about the decision afterward."

Potentially being the first quarterback drafted this season versus falling to the second round of this past draft makes that decision look very, very good.

Dallas Jackson is the Big East producer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at djackson@rivals.com.

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