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Blake Baker on Thurs.: Still feels good about DT despite Silvera surgery

Defensive coordinator Blake Baker addressed the injury to DT Nesta Silvera in an interview Thursday on WQAM.

Silvera will undergo surgery on his foot.

“With the way Nestas’s been playing it’s really unfortunate for him individually and us as a defense and team,” Baker said. “It happened a couple of days ago, didn’t want to rush to any conclusions. MRI and X rays - unfortunately he’s going to be out for we don’t know exactly how much time. He goes in for surgery today or tomorrow, timetable (for a return) to be determined after that.”

The rotation at defensive tackle now?

“I still feel good where we’re at,” Baker said. “Obviously losing Nesta is a huge blow for us because he’s gotten better and better every day. But Jordan Miller has stepped up, done a great job, Pat Bethel’s had a tremendous fall camp so far. The three freshmen we brought in (Jared Hunte, Jason Blissett and Jalar Holley) and Jon Ford has picked up where he left off after injuring his wrist last spring. A lot will be determined after Sunday, our first scrimmage. I think we have the pieces of the puzzle, just have to figure out where they all fit.”

Asked specifically about transfer DT Chigozie Nnorkua, Baker said he “looks really, really good. He’s a mature kid, picked up the defense really quickly. Great change of direction and has brought a lot of strength inside. He’s around a 400 pound bench presser, one of the heavier squatters inside.

The situation at end?

Baker said Scott Patchan “has really picked his game up from the spring” and that Jon Garvin “might have had the best camp of them all when you talk about consistency, coming to work every day.”

Baker added that “Trevon Hill, Gregory Rousseau - I think we have the ability to be special there on the edge.”

* Baker confirmed that freshman LB Avery Huff reported to the team yesterday. He has to go through five days of non-pads work before being fully integrated, per NCAA rules.

* At safety, Baker said it was a question mark coming out of spring and that “a lot will be determined after the first scrimmage this Sunday.”

“Gurvan Hall and Amari Carter have picked up where they left off,” Baker said. “And then you have Robert Knowles and Derrick Smith who have really upped their game. Derrick Smith has been a takeover machine so far in camp, is moving much, much better. He’s dropped 10 or 15 pounds, looks much quicker, is playing faster. Spent a lot of time in the film room and it shows. He’s had a great camp.”

Baker also said that safety transfer Bubba Bolden is “supposed to be here sometime next week.”

* At linebacker?

The team has the trio of four-year starters returning - Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud.

“All three of them bring something different to the table,” Baker said. “Shaq brings an intensity and fire to this defense that I haven’t seen in probably all my years of coaching. He’s very focused, determined, a very serious young man … he is everything you want in a linebacker physically and mentally. Him, Pinckney and Zach are really the heart and soul of the defense. Pinckney brings that Miami swag. He’s real, real smart, a heady player, understands the game. Where Shaq is maybe the bad cop with some of the younger guys, Pinckney is more the good cop, be there to pick guys up after Shaq gets into them a little bit. And Zach is the guy you want your daughter to marry. A mature, level-headed guy. Those three guys are invaluable. Couldn’t be happier with the three of them. Have to keep building depth in the room.”

* Baker reiterated that the overall defensive style won’t change and that “we’re going to continue to evolve and tweak things.”

He added that “The offensive scheme challenges you every day. Things are continually evolving, but we’re not going to, as the old saying goes, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.”

Where Shaq is maybe the bad cop with some of the younger guys, Pinckney is more the good cop, be there to pick guys up after Shaq gets into them a little bit.
— Blake Baker

* Asked about true freshmen who are standing out, Baker said, “it’s kind of hard to evaluate, we haven’t even fully tackled yet. So that’ll be determined on Sunday. But an outstanding freshman class. There’s not a guy you look at that you think `Oh, he may never play here.’ They’re all extremely athletic.”

He then singled out Te’Cory Couch, the aforementioned three freshmen defensive tackles along with Sam Brooks (“he’s elevating his game, getting better every day,” Baker said of Brooks).

“A lot will depend on opportunity (for who plays right away),” Baker said. “I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen out of all of them so far.”

* How much tape has he watched on the Gators?

“Oh, I’ve watched a ton of Florida tape,” Baker said. “Right now we’re worrying about the Miami Hurricanes. But over the summer countless hours of watching the Florida Gators.”

* Asked how he feels about his cornerback play, Baker said, “especially in today’s college football you have to be able to play press man. Trajan Bandy has had a phenomenal fall camp. The thing that’s impressed me so far even from the spring is his ability to lead. He’s a quiet leader but has been very, very positive this fall camp and done a phenomenal job being consistent day in, day out. DJ Ivey had started taking a lead in spring camp, Al Blades (the current main first teamer ahead of Ivey) is right back on his heels. Those three guys are pushing each other every day. Still looking to find out who that fourth guy will be. That’s to be determined. But I feel really, really good about those three guys.”

* Baker’s take on the QB competition?

“It’s been awesome to watch them compete,” he said. “Coach Dan Enos does a great job rotating them throughout practice - every single time you ask (who threw a good pass) it’s a different name. I really do think it’s neck and neck. I’m excited to see the next couple of weeks and how it unfolds.”