Football Q&A: Duane Akina, Solomon Thomas, Terrence Alexander, Daniel Marx

April 8, 2015, 12:02 a.m.

In advance of Saturday’s Spring Game, The Daily’s Nicholas Radoff had the chance to sit down with defensive backs coach Duane Akina, rising sophomore defensive end Solomon Thomas, rising sophomore cornerback Terrence Alexander and rising sophomore fullback Daniel Marx to talk about the team’s progress during spring practices.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): You have a very talented group of defensive backs, but they’re pretty young. How does the secondary look like it’s shaping up this Spring?

Sophomore Terrence Alexander (center)  is oart of the rebuilding of Stanford's defense. A successful realignment is going to be crucial to balance off Stanford's powerhouse offense. SHIRLEY PEFLEY/Stanford Photo.
Sophomore Terrence Alexander (center) is oart of the rebuilding of Stanford’s defense. A successful realignment is going to be crucial to balance off Stanford’s powerhouse offense. (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/

Duane Akina (DA): It’s very competitive right now…competition to me is really healthy. It ensures whatever your potential is, you reach that…the depth moves around constantly and [we’re] looking for new combinations constantly — what fits. The two safeties, Kodi [Whitfield] and Dallas [Lloyd], have been pleasant surprises — they are really starting to grasp so many of the techniques and they’ve got a good feel for the game. The closer you get to the ball, I’ve always felt, the better awareness you have to have. I think their offensive background helps them there.

We’ve still got [Zach] Hoffpauir, he’s a possibility there. [We’ve] got a chance to look at all these freshman corners and see how they all settle in. Even Pip [Ra’Chard Pippens], who’s been here a while, who’s got a lot of reps under him, he’s done some good things too. So we just got to try to get that figured out, find who’s going to play nickel and dime.

TSD: What does the situation at nickelback look like?

DA: Terrence [Alexander] has played there in games. Started the Oregon game last year for us. Taijuan Thomas we’ve put in there. He’s got a feel. Kodi, because he’s grasped the safety position so quickly, I’ve moved him down there. I always like having safeties at the nickel position along with corners. So depends on who you’ve got a matchup with, a big slot, a smaller slot. Ronnie Harris is [getting reps] in walkthroughs. Terrence [Alexander] is doing a good job at nickel, he’s doing a good job at corner, so we’re really stretching him mentally.

TSD: Dallas Lloyd and Kodi Whitfield recently made the change to safety. Are those guys getting the first-team reps in Spring ball?

DA: They’ve been getting the most reps. Then Brandon Simmons and Calvin Chandler has done a nice job too. We’re also rolling through there Denzel [Franklin] also, So of those three of the five safeties, you’ve seen those older guys emerge a little bit more but there’s still great competition with the others.

TSD: You’re only six deep on the defensive line right now, you’ve been kind of banged up. How is the rotation looking?

Solomon Thomas (ST): It’s tough at times, just because we don’t have the numbers, but honestly it’s really good to get the reps and experience even though we’re tired or fatigued. We know these reps are going to pay off in the end. We’re going to get muscle memory from them to know what we need to do in game situations so reps are always good.

TSD: Are you rotating positions on the defensive line?

ST: Because of the injuries, I’ve been playing nose tackle as well as end. It’s good to be able to mix it around so I can learn the plays from both angles.

TSD: How is the defensive line progressing?

ST: Going into the summer I’d say the defense has done really well, that we’ve progressed a lot. We’ve got a lot of good players that are working hard. As it goes on the chemistry is getting better and better.

TSD: How does the young secondary look?

Terrence Alexander (TA): Yeah, we’ve got a lot of guys that can play; every year we also have a lot of guys that can really play. I think it’s based on chemistry. Whatever guys can play with each other, those guys are going to play. If we have more, that’s obviously better, the more the merrier. I’m pretty sure we have more guys that can play, so why not keep everyone fresh.

TSD: Coach Akina says you’ve been playing some nickelback. What’s it like to go up against the big tight ends?

TA: Once you get closer to the box it’s a lot more aggressive, you’ve got to be a lot more instinctive. I’m going against the big tight ends all the time so I guess I’m just used to it at this point. It’s always fun, get away from the outside, and hit some people for once and a while. It’s a lot of fun.

Definitely, definitely, you miss it when it’s over, so getting back in a real game-like scenario is great — great for the team, great to see how we play in certain situations. This is what we need for the defensive chemistry. This is a new team with a lot of new guys playing with each other. You can tell from the first session of spring to the second session how the defense is coming together, and that’s just in the time of two weeks so I can only imagine how the chemistry will build over fall.

TSD: We’ve had that running back by committee last year after a long line of Stanford bell-cows at the position. How are the running backs shaping up this Spring?

Daniel Marx (DM): For running backs, we’ve had a lot of guys come in, a lot of guys that have performed really well at different situations, so I feel like this year it will kind of work out the same as it has been in the past where we’ll just rotate in just a bunch of guys and every guy is doing great stuff out there and playing to the best of their abilities.

TSD: Given the fact that Stanford has four fantastic tight ends right now, will start seeing more of those famous three tight-end sets?

DM: Stanford has a history of using their personnel to their advantage. We’ve done a great job so far — all the tight ends are super talented. We’ve one tight end, two tight ends all the way up to four tight ends at once. The personnel is [there] to bring out the best of what we’ve got. They’ve been doing a great job, working hard all spring so I’m excited to see them play.

TSD: Will we see you catch the ball out of the backfield a bit more this coming year?

DM: It’s always something that you think about. Working all spring getting my hands right, trying to catch the ball out of the backfield. Especially growing up watching Ryan Hewitt coming out of the backfield and catching it, you aspire to be someone like him.

TSD: How’s the pass protection been from the running back spot?

DM: It’s good, we’re working on it a little bit today. Lots of fun with the defense, we’re working hard, they’re working hard. So, when it comes to game time, we’re getting the best looks that we can.

Our guys are really talented, so it’s great getting looks against our defense, all the ‘backers. It’s improving, you know its spring ball, its great. It’s a lot of work, lot of fun.

Contact Nicholas Radoff at nradoff ‘at’

Nic Radoff '15 is now officially from Oakland and is a proud to be a history major and a Latin-American studies minor. Nic was a staff writer for women's soccer and follows football extensively, whether his editors let him write about it or not. He is a proud member of the men's club lacrosse team and invites you all to come watch most Saturdays, even though you might not see him on the field much. He enjoys spending time with his family, hiking with his husky Artoo, lamenting his A's and maintaining that things get better with age.

Login or create an account