Cullen Christian has been one of the most frequently mentioned freshmen by the coaching staff thus far. The former Keystone State star attributes that recognition to soaking everything he is being taught like a sponge.
"Things are going good," said Christian. "I'm just trying to adapt all this college ball, adapt to the coaching, adapt to watching film, and just working out on a higher level."
There are countless challenges that come with making the transition from high school to college, both on and off the field. For Christian, though, one adjustment has been tougher than any other.
"This is the most football I've ever played," the freshman corner said. "Just adapting… your body hurts and stuff… you just got to learn how to treat your body and everything like that. Then not getting a lot of sleep. You just got to bounce back from all that and get your mind right. All this is a mindset. You just got to be ready to play."
In most cases, freshmen are able to gradually mature into having the proper mindset. However, as a youngster at a position of little depth, Christian isn't afforded that luxury. That became even clearer when Troy Woolfolk went down with a season ending injury last week.
"Yeah, (that stepped up the pressure)," Christian admitted. "But I feel that we as a team… we just all have got to step up and as individuals. I think everybody has to step up, not just the secondary. I think the linebackers have got to step up, the defensive line… everybody has got to step up. Troy is a great player and that's a player that we are going to miss, but at the same time, we can't throw our heads down. We've got to stay up and have just got to work harder. We've just got to fill his shoes, but they are hard shoes to fill."
With more of the emphasis placed on getting him ready to play, the weaknesses in his game have been amplified. For his part, Christian is attacking those issues head on.
"The (biggest) thing I got to improve on… I've got to improve on my tackling," said Christian. "Covering and learning and listening to what the coaches are saying and listening to their directions and the technique and things like that, all that is (already) improving. I think the (biggest) thing I've got to improve on is my tackling. Usually, when I miss a tackle it is mostly when the receiver catches a curl route or something like that, and I'm not knowing which way they are going to turn. I don't know if I should just fly and try and hit him or break down when he's not looking and try to make a tackle. That's what I got to improve on, my tackling."
After last Saturday's scrimmage the entire defense was probably just as introspective. Rich Rodriguez singled out tackling as one of the things he was most disappointed in last weekend.
"As a team, we didn't tackle very well (last Saturday)," Christian stated. "It'll all come. The more we work on tackling, the harder we work, the tackling will come along. We just all have habits of not wrapping our arms and breaking down before we get to the tackle. That's what we've got to work on. It was slippery. It was wet out there. I'm not trying to use an excuse or anything, but when there are games like that we've got to really learn how to wrap because you will slide right off the running backs. I figured out really (quickly) that this ain't high school no more. You can't just go and throw your body at somebody. You really got to learn your form and really learn how to tackle."