Q&A with linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti

Michael Gilliard was given the Most Improved Player Award last season, how has he built on that in preparation for this fall?

He’s been putting in good work. Mike’s trying to study the game as much as he can to get better at little things – to be more vocal and be a better communicator, and he’s really been working on those kinds of things. You know, Mike leads by example ‘cause he gives good effort and that’s been nice to see, but he’s always been that way.

Amarlo Herrera really stepped up as a true freshman last season, and with all the depth at inside linebacker, how will his role change this season barring any injuries at the position?

The situations that Amarlo played in last year, you know, he’s kind of added to his repertoire through the offseason. He’s a lot of the same way (as Michael). He enjoys football, he enjoys coming to work every day and doing those things. We’ll play him in different roles and he’ll definitely have a role with us.

Are there specific roles that each of the inside linebackers have to play?

Everybody plays everything. It’s really more about we teach them the technique and the buzz words that put you into certain techniques, and that way everybody can play everything. We spend more time with that. Really, it just depends on the week. Who’s going to play where, and I know that it’s kind of “coach speak,” but really it is true. It depends on the week; it depends on who we’re playing. Who’s going to play a “mike,” who’s going to play a “moe,” a “money,” a “mac” – all that kinda stuff. It depends on what kind of offense we’re going against.   

When Alec Ogletree went down against Boise State last year it seemed like there was a lot of skepticism about the linebackers and who would fill the void. This year it seems to be a lot more solidified.

Yeah, there’s guys that have went out and played and they understand that they have to play better and still have to improve for us to be where we want to be. It does help that you’ve seen them and they’ve been in big situations. They’ve been in all sorts of different situations and that does help when you go into your first game. I’ll still be nervous, though.

Are there specific things that you feel like the group needs to work on?

Each guy has a pretty good idea about what they need to work on. We talk about it every, we try to drill it every day, and we watch it on film every day. Each guy has specific things that I talk about with them in front of the group, I talk about it one-on-one, shoot, I text ‘em at night. They pretty much know what they have to work on, and there are different things. Sometimes it’s a group thing that we have to do to get better, and sometimes it’s just individuals – hey this is what you’ve got to get better at to be the player that each of them want to be because they all want to be good players.

Does freshman outside linebacker James DeLoach have the skill set to potentially play inside linebacker as well?

He’s a talented guy. He’ll evolve into something, so we’ll see. Basically, he’s a good football player. He’s got a lot of good things to him that he can do, and that’s one of the things that made him attractive when we recruited him. He was a versatile guy that could do a lot of different things and he’s shown that and he’s proven that.  He’s a great kid, he’s doing well and he’s turned out to be the kid that we thought he would be.

Where do you anticipate Ramik Wilson playing and what sort of skills does he possess that could allow him to play the at inside linebacker?

He’s outside, inside, he’s all over the place. He’ll be hard to keep up with. He can key and diagnose, he can run to the ball, he’s a decent tackler. He has some ability to cover backs, cover tight ends and do those types of things. He starting to understand coverages better so he has some of the things that you need as a football player in general and a linebacker specifically. 

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