Q&A: Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio adjusting well to new team
The Cougars defense, under new defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, is expected to lead the team this year following the loss of dynamic offensive playmaker Greg Ward Jr.
Returning All-American sophomore Ed Oliver, and a stacked defense on all three levels will help D’onofrio push the team to new heights. Although there is a question about who will start at cornerback this year, there is plenty of depth to expect the corners to be up to par.
The Cougar sat down with D’Onofrio to discuss his upcoming first season with the team.
The Cougar: How has it been to adjust to a new team this year?
Mark D’Onofrio: It’s been great. The guys have been a lot of fun to coach. We have a tremendous staff and tremendous support people all around us in every area of the program. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of it
TC: How has the defense done so far in camp?
MD: We are still in the dog days of camp, so what we are really looking for is daily improvement from every individual. We are working hard as position coaches, and position leaders in our rooms to make sure we are trying to make somebody else better every day. Our focus right now every day is to try to get better at something and stay with it. Practice hard, look at the tape, and see what we have to correct, and fix and go back to work. Right now we are in that phase and I am happy with our progress so far.
TC: Any freshman standouts?
MD: We are looking at all of these guys. Some of these freshman are getting expanding roles and more reps. Really, what those guys have to do is master their current role, and then they will get the promotion. They have to do a great job on special teams, they have to show up in that regard and then they will get more opportunities to get in different packages on defense. We are still in the improvement phase. Everyone is getting opportunities and trying to improve.
TC: Ed Oliver is expected to be a beast this year. How do you keep him grounded in the defense and make sure he doesn’t get overwhelmed with expectations?
MD: He does it by himself. He has such high expectations for himself. He sets a high standard for his teammates every day and he is very inspiring with the way he works at it.
TC: You still have some questions at cornerback. How are the players dealing with the competition and have you made any decisions yet?
MD: There has been tremendous competition. We are fortunate in the fact that we have a couple of guys to add to our roster. We have five that we had from the spring plus the new additions and I think coach Jennings has done a really good job with that group. They all continue to improve and the young guys have flashed and shown some ability. I think we are building depth and creating competition in terms of who will be on the roster, but no decisions have been made yet.
TC: When will you start to implement your game plan for UTSA?
MD: We are still in camp right now. We will take as much time as we feel like we need to. There are still several days left in terms of the camp grind, and we want to continue to make sure that we are getting our team better first. They know the opponent is out there, it’s a great opponent, and we will get them ready when the point comes. Right now its camp. It’s about focusing on the Houston Cougars and the daily improvement.
TC: People expect UTSA to be a relatively easy start to your schedule. What do you think about your upcoming opponent?
MD: All they have to do is watch the tape. The tape don’t lie and they have really good players, really good team and really good coaches. We know we have a challenge ahead.