Chatting with Mariner's big boys up front
Aaron Swaney talks to KeiVarae Russell's best friends
Prep Zone: Camp report: Mariner
"I love those guys," Russell said after a recent photo shoot. "I'm so excited to see those guys get out there and show what they can do. They've put in a lot of work and I know they'll be ready."
Here's what they had to say (Editor's note: Releford and Colin were not present for most of the interview):
Question: How does it feel to block for somebody like KeiVarae?
Martin Martinez: To me it's a lot of pressure because I know that KeiVarae is pretty fast so it means I have to be pretty fast. But I also like it because it pushes me to be better. I remember the first time I actually played with KeiVarae I accidentally -- he grabbed my back and I thought he was another player -- so I punched him out of the way. But then I kind of got used to it and now he doesn't have to tell me where to go. Knowing that KeiVarae is running behind me means I have to do my job.
Q: Do you find sometimes he's running up the back of you because he's so fast?
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Justin Blunk: It's also a privilege to block for him. When you see him in the newspaper going for 2,000 yards you know that we helped him out. And he's good about thanking the linemen. Some backs think it's all about them, but he thanks his linemen. That's what we like about him.
Q: In your offense (the Wing-T) the linemen have to be agile and quick, right?
DM: We have to be quick as a group.
JB: Our linemen are quick. Our backs are really quick. Everything's quick because we need to get to the blocks. We're not one of those pound it out offenses who likes to drive them back for five seconds. We like to hit 'em and as long as we stabilize them KeiVarae and the rest of the backs are just out of there.
Q: Do you guys specifically practice for that?
DM: We condition a lot.
MM: For the offensive line more than three-quarters of practice is just running plays, running plays, running plays. I like that because when we're with KeiVarae we get to go with his speed and I think that makes us a better team. I went to Eastern (Washington University) for a camp and when we were there we did a lot of pass blocking and it was really weird for me. I met a lot of the other players and they were confused because I like to run and I like to pull and just run everywhere. They were like 'Hey we're linemen we don't run. We just sit there and hit people.' I was like, 'No, man I like to run.'
JB: It's also our coaches. They don't let us take a play off. We take one play off, even if there's a big hole and the running back is 10 yards down the field, if we're not still blocking they'll get on us.
Q: You've got Arlington your first game. Is there a little revenge factor there? (Arlington beat Mariner 26-12 in the 2010 opener)
MM: I'm not going to lie. I think we can all agree that (revenge is) what we're looking for. We've got a bit of a grudge. We want to get them back. Last year we started off pretty badly. We had 17 (freshmen), including me, I didn't even play that game because I didn't know the plays. This year we're expected to be good, so Arlington is the best way to start because that game is the one we all want to fight for.
JB: It's not a divisin game, but it'll show whether we're going to be great or not. We have a lot of expectations on us this year, but we also have people who don't think we can be a the top. So we need to show them we can play with the best of the best.
Q: The coaches poll has you guys as the team to beat in the South. How does that make you feel?
JB: I feel like we deserve it. We're out here all summer while everyone else was sitting at home. We got 6 a.m. running and everybody showing up. We had lifting with a bunch of people. So I think we're ready for it.
MM: In my opinion it's always good to have high standards because you always have to practice up to those high standards. That's why we like having KeiVarae because he pushes us to be better, and knowing they're calling us the best in the league pushes us to be better. We don't want to be the best because everyone says we are. We want to show that we are the best in the league.
JB: We're returning a bunch of starters and most of them are seniors, so we all have it in mind that it's senior's year. We have the talent to go far, now we just have to step up and do it.
Q: One of the guys who isn't returning is your quarterback (Alex Coffman). You have two rookie guys splitting snaps so far, what's that been like?
JB: There's been reps shared between Dan Nadat and Gabe Dye. Both have their own technique, but they're both getting it down. We've also been running some Wildcat with KeiVarae. I have faith in whoever is back there.
MM: I think our quarterbacks are doing a good job. I was nervous because we lost Alex Coffman and he was a big part of our team. But I've been watching both of them closely and they practice together and they go hard.
DM: They're fighting for their spot.
JB: Yeah competition is making them better. I think starting out they thought the senior (Dye) was just going to have it, but Dan stepped up and now it's a competition. They don't want to miss one rep.
DM: Coach likes something about each of them. He likes Gabe for his arm, but he likes Dan for his handoffs.
JB: Gabe is a muscular quarterback. Dan is really accurate with his passes, which adds something new to our game.
Q: Do you think you will pass more this year?
JB: Honestly I think they might rotate.
DM: Yeah to confuse them.
JB: And KeiVarae can throw the ball too, so that Wildcat is going to be good.
Q: What are your goals for the season?
JB: All three of us want KeiVarae to break the Mariner single-game rushing record (326 yards).
Q: Can you do it?
Group: Oh yeah.
DM: We got him up to 280 last year ... what ... at Mount Vernon, right?
JB: But obviously the goal for everyone here is to win the Wesco South championship and get into the playoffs and win a couple of games there. We want to put Mariner on the map.
MM: Mariner used to be the kind of program that always went to the playoffs. The past three years we kind of lost that, so we want to bring that back. That should be a tradition. I take that personal. Last year I was really mad that we lost to Jackson and Lake Stevens and missed the playoffs. I mean I want to go.
Jorge Colin: Last year we started off with a really good record (Marauders began 4-1 in 2010), but it was just that one bad play that set the whole season off (A hook-and-ladder play that turned into a fumble against Jackson).
MM: No, no, what set us off was the Eastlake game. It was 56-13. It was bad. That totally broke us down emotionally. But that can help us out too because now we have a little bit of that rage inside.
JB: All I can tell you is we're not going to lose any game by 40 this year.
JC: Last year the whole varsity was young. This year we have some experience and this year we're going to play as one not as individuals.
Q: So would you say the strength of this year's team is experience?
Group: Oh yeah.
JC: We didn't have any experience last year. Last year I came in as a sophomore and I didn't know what I was doing but when I met Martin and Derrick and they helped me out. And I started as a sophomore because of these guys.
- Prep Zone: Camp report: Mariner 8/26/11
- Prep Zone: Video interview with Mariner football player KeiVarae Russell 8/15/11
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