|By Daniel Berk, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
He said he might actually be a little softer.
When Rodriguez found out, he -- let's say politely -- didn't agree.
"I need to go back to being a (jerk) then," Rodriguez said laughing. "Now that Jared said that, I'm not going to be soft anymore."
Tevis' teammates might not be thrilled to find out the
That is, after all, his job for the upcoming season.
"I definitely want to be a leader of that defense this year," Tevis said. "I'm not too vocal; I try to lead by example. But I want to lift the guys when I can and be somewhat vocal. It's something I have to do."
With the two primary defensive captains from a year ago,
Tevis seems like the most natural fit. The former walk-on has started all 22 games he's played in the past two seasons. He has 165 tackles and three interceptions during that time and has formed a reputation as one of the hardest hitters on
"I think I gotta take the crown as the hardest hitter," Tevis said, smiling. "No. 2 is
But Tevis' job this year is more than just hitting hard. Rodriguez and defensive coordinator
"We want to be the best defense in the conference," Tevis said. "I think we're overdue for a breakout year. We put in the work, we've grown and I feel like we've improved a lot. I think we're a little more intimidating if you turn the film on. We're a more physical defense and I take a lot of pride in that. We'll continue to establish that."
In order to establish it, Tevis and his four defensive back counterparts must have a strong season. Between Tevis, safeties Grandon and Tra'Mayne Bondurant and cornerback
"Tra'Mayne is a playmaker and a sure tackler," Tevis said. "He always finds himself in the right spot and he's dependable. When they throw a flare route to the flat, Tra'Mayne can handle it. Jourdon has improved a lot. He's a quick guy, and a physical guy. And Jonathan and Will are obviously talented guys, too."
Rodriguez said he didn't consider moving Parks to cornerback to help the depth there. The coach is confident Casteel will find ways to get Parks on the field, and said he's good insurance if Tevis or another safety suffers an injury.
"That's a good problem to have," Rodriguez said.
Combine the surplus of talent in the secondary -- arguably the most important spot for any Pac-12 team these days with 10 returning quarterbacks in the league -- and the fact that Tevis and the defense have a better of understanding of what Casteel is teaching, and
"It's night and day from when
"He probably won't yell as much if we're stopping all these dynamic offenses."
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