Glenn Spencer sat for a chat with reporters this week and the topic turned to Jameis Winston.
“Don’t make me think about him right now,” Spencer said.
Not that Spencer hasn’t already been doing some thinking on the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the quarterback and trigger man at defending national champion Florida State, which is first up for Spencer’s in-transition defense to start the season.
“I’ve thought about him all summer,” he said.
Not pleasant thoughts, either.
“No weaknesses,” said the Cowboys defensive coordinator. “You can’t look at it and say, ‘We need to do this, we need to force him to do this.’ Or, ‘We’ve got to overload them here.’ They’re so balanced.
“He’s the best player in the nation, OK. But then you’ve got a supporting cast that’s unbelievable. An offensive line that will probably have three drafted, probably two in the first round. Who knows what else? Receivers, running backs... So it’s the whole package. It’s what you’d expect when everyone in the nation votes them No. 1. It’s for a reason.
“And it’s obvious when you see it on film.”
Still, don’t confuse Spencer’s respect for resignation. That’s not his style.
Yes, facing Winston and the Seminoles is a daunting task, especially for a defense requiring seven new starters.
And yes, those new starters must be confirmed and schooled and galvanized into a cohesive and capable unit in the short span of 30 days
A challenge? Sure.
So what’s new?
“I’m uneasy with that,” Spencer said. “It’s a challenge for me. I stay awake because of that. But I was awake last year because of other issues.
“So it’s always something. It’s not real fun for me.”
And yet, it’s what drives him.
“As a person, you get up every day and you look to yourself for things to motivate you for that day,” Spencer said. “So this is just something to motivate me to be the best leader I can for these kids. If it wasn’t that, I’d be coming up with another reason I’ve got to give my all for them today and to try to get them to experience great things and be men of great character and integrity.
“It’s just another angle to do that. And I’ll use that for motivation for myself when I get out of bed every day; to try to be the best leader I can be for them.”
A year ago, OSU fielded its best defense of the Mike Gundy era. So losing so many veterans is lamentable.
Still, only cornerback Justin Gilbert was drafted off that defense. And there’s a belief inside the program that the Cowboys have recruited better players, lending hope that some weaknesses might be covered up quickly.
“Daytawion Lowe doesn’t like to hear this,” defensive assistant Van Malone said of the former Cowboy, “but where we’ve lost in experience, we’ve really taken a step forward in athletic ability. And in size and speed and explosiveness.”
Malone said that in talks with the strength and conditioning staff, OSU’s youngest players are getting rave reviews. And the defense will be relying on youngsters, for depth and possibly even starting roles.
“Maybe the guy doesn’t know his left from his right, right now, but his athletic ability and is overall speed is well advanced for his age,” Malone said. “So we’re excited about those things.
“We hope that we’ve done a good job of recruiting athletes and the athleticism can hold on until the experience arrives.”
The lack of experience can’t be dismissed.
“It’s irreplaceable,” Spencer said. “You can’t sugarcoat it. You can’t replace it. You can’t coach it.”
Spencer and his staff can coach other things, like schemes and technique. And they can motivate.
And they will.
“By, hopefully, Thursday’s practice of Week 1, I’ll be stupid enough to believe that we can go out and play our tail off and beat Florida State,” Spencer said. “Right now, that’s a pipe dream. Right now, we’re so far away from that.
“But I know we’re going to work.”