Locke, Roach talk improvement in weight room, on defense

PJ Locke. (Will Gallagher/IT)

PJ Locke. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Locke talks weight room advances, physicality, communication

Junior defensive back P.J. Locke took the nickel backer position during this offseason based on both his play and his highly-praised attitude in front of Tom Herman.

Since he’s entrenched in that nickel position, Locke, as well as his teammates, were able to focus heavily on meeting physical benchmarks throughout the offseason. Following the first fully-padded practice, Locke said those strides he made in strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight’s weight room were obvious.

“I definitely felt the strength program kick in today,” Locke said. “There were a lot more pads popping today. The missed tackles were more technique stuff, but as far as like power, it was there today. Definitely there.”

Part of why the team made such an improvement was because of things McKnight threw at the team they had never seen before.

“We do workouts I’ve never seen before,” Locke said. “We definitely do workouts I’ve never seen before. Everything has a purpose to it. Each workout has a purpose, and it definitely showed today. I felt a lot of pads popping. I felt some force from our running backs today.”

Locke, who made nine starts last season and notched 33 total tackles, was part of a defense plagued by issues getting the proper play call and getting lined up correctly.

According to the former Beaumont Central defender, the defense has vastly improved their communication as multiple players are now able to call signals now. In the Big 12, especially against fast paced offenses like Oklahoma and Texas Tech, being able to do this is pivotal.

“When the offense is going real fast and we’ve got to get the playcall from the sideline, it causes us to communicate,” Locke said. “Sometimes I’ve got to run way, 50 yards across the field to get lined up, going back to the left, stay to the left. We’ve got to get that communicated. The defense starts with the leaders.”

Locke would later add “one person can get the play and communicate it to everybody.”

Though most contributors on the 2017 defense are likely to be non-first year players, the newcomers from the class of 2017 have impressed Locke so far.

“Montrell (Estell) is coming along,” Locke said. “Josh Thompson is coming along. Kobe Boyce is definitely coming along. All the DB freshman are coming along. They’re starting to click, get the playcalls down, get lined up real fast even when our offense goes tempo.”

With a scrimmage coming on Saturday, Locke echoed a sentiment his head coach has made several times.

“I just want to see effort right now,” Locke said. “We can fix mistakes, but you can’t fix effort.”

Roach talks breaking through the “wall,” improving from last season

Malcolm Roach (Will Gallagher/IT)

Malcolm Roach (Will Gallagher/IT)

Coming off a season of 24 tackles, three sacks, and Pro Football Focus freshman All-American honors, sophomore defensive end Malcolm Roach has coaches and fans excited to see how he plays as a sophomore.

Roach, who came to Texas from Baton Rouge, said on Thursday he feels as if both he and the team have seen positive results over the past few days.

“I feel like I’ve been progressing pretty good,” Roach said. “First I just want to say the linebackers have helped us out a lot, the DBs have helped us out a lot, as a d-line, communicating to us. We’re just trying to get better every day as a defense as a whole. We have some great leaders helping us out on the d-line. They’ve done a very good job with us. We’re just trying to get better every day as a defense.”

With Thursday’s practice being a helmet and shoulder pad practice and Friday’s being full contact, Roach was asked about difficulties the team might have getting through the end of the week.

Roach admitted the challenge ahead of them, but noted his Longhorns planned on getting through it together.

“Anytime you go through college football camp, it’s pretty hard on the body, mentally, everywhere, physically,” Roach said. “It’s common to hit a wall but you’ve got to fight through it as a team. That’s where the strength and conditioning program comes in a lot mentally to push yourself through it. I feel like, as a team, we’ve been prepared well and we’ll push through it.”

The first few days of increased contact can be a challenge for some players, but Roach said he was confident his teammates would be able to get over the hurdle of contact.

“Every day is a test of our mental toughness coming out here in this heat,” Roach said. “We’ve been tested mentally since they first got there, the first day, and every day we worked out this summer. It’s nothing new to us.”

The sophomore defensive end, who said he currently checks in at ‘6-3.5, 6-4 on the field and 7-foot in your heart” and registers at 265 pounds on the scale, was part of a defense that had several true freshman, including Roach, receive significant action last season.

When asked why that young defense will be better this year, Roach pointed to his experience last year.

“Really, we were young,” Roach said. “We were very young last year. I feel like we know what to expect now as a defense and I really feel like we’re learning how to handle it better. We’re coming together closer. I feel like that’s the biggest thing. The closer you are together, the better your team will be. Not only on the defense, I just feel like the team is coming together closer.”

Part of why the team could be coming together is because of the popular new locker rooms. Roach said a change of scenery and neighbors has brought the team closer.

“We’re around different positions now,” Roach said. “I get to mingle with wide receivers now. We’re coming together closer as a team. You’re really just around people who you wouldn’t usually be around. Usually I’m around the d-line. Now, my locker has linebackers by it, offensive linemen by it, whatever combination that is, offensive linemen and d-linemen. That’s really good and has helped us come together closer as a team. “