August 7, 2008

Munns focused on fundamentals

Accountability. It's something Coach Dennis Erickson has engraved into his players' minds since the day he arrived in Tempe more than a year and a half ago.
And defensively there is nobody more accountable than the middle linebacker -- and that's exactly how Gerald Munns likes it.

"I like the pressure - actually I don't even see it as pressure," Munns said. "I like having the coaches counting on me. That makes me feel more confident. If they think I can do it then it makes me feel like I can."

And that mentality is why the junior from Hamilton High School came into camp in the best shape of his life. He knew the coaching staff would be asking a lot from him and he didn't want to disappoint."

"I know [the coaches] are asking a lot of me this year so I worked my butt off over the summer to get where I needed to be physically," Munns said. "I'm as confident as ever in myself."

Another thing adding to Munns' confidence are the two guys starting on either side of him, Travis Goethel and Mike Nixon.

The three starting linebackers have strong rapport and are constantly working with one another to get better.

When the No. 2 defense is taking reps during practice, the three starters can be found standing together, going over various schemes or possible game scenarios.

But the biggest reason the three of those guys work so well together is trust.

"You have to be able to count on the other guys to do their job and I know those guys are doing what they're supposed to do," Munns said. "We're a strong group together. We're there to help each other out when we make mistakes and to regroup after big plays. All three of us are guys with a lot of experience for only two years. We've seen basically everything an offense can throw at us and we can talk it out pretty well.

"It's a team defense and I trust my teammates, especially those two guys. I think they have really helped me get to where I'm at now as a player."

But the road to the top of the depth chart hasn't been an easy one for Munns.

In the third game of the 2007 season Munns partially tore his medial cruciate ligament and was forced to spend the next four weeks on the sidelines watching his teammates, yearning to get back on the field. So when doctors cleared him to play, Munns said he went back to work twice as hard.

"Injuries can happen to anybody, and it sucked that that happened, but its how you come back from injuries that really define what kind of player you are," he said. "I looked at the injury as a minor set back. I could have probably sat the rest of the season out but I wanted to get back and help this team any way I could even if my role was a little smaller.

"I just really tried to not let my knee injury affect my mobility, my agility, my speed and that kind of stuff. I feel like I'm stronger than I was in my knee, I feel like I'm faster. Actually, I feel like the injury strengthened me. Physically and mentally I feel like it strengthened me."

But just because Munns has recovered so well from his injury, doesn't mean he is complacent. He knows that he must continue to improve if he wants to secure his starting spot so he is still fine-tuning his game.

"Every day I'm focused on the fundamentals," he said. "There are so many things that go on in every single play, your eyes, your hands, your feet and I'm working on all of those.

"Coach Bray demands perfection of us and the most important thing is just demanding perfection of ourselves."

Looking ahead at the season, Munns isn't getting caught up in the hype of playing the top two team in the nation.

As cliché as it is, he said, you have to take it one game at a time.

"Last year we did a really good job of focusing on the first game then when that game was over we were just focused on the second game," Munns said. "We're looking forward to Georgia and USC but we're not looking ahead. Our first game is NAU and that's what we're looking at right now."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!