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Checking In With Jalen Jefferson

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In which we find out how preparations for Northwestern are going, and if he feels different entering the season as a starter.

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

With the season opener against Northwestern just a few days away, we recently stopped in with strong side linebacker Jalen Jefferson to get his thoughts on the Wildcats.

"We're seeing a lot of different things. A lot of motions, a lot of offset, a lot of shifts and stuff," Jefferson said. "They pretty much try to manipulate your eyes and try to get you out of the wrong gap. That's when they pop for the big play."

"The key," Jefferson said, "is definitely paying close attention to the line, getting your keys and reads slow but fast - so you can react - and then reacting, hitting the gap and making the play."

With Northwestern running a two quarterback system, the team has spent their game preparation with Austin Hinder simulating Kain Colter - and will likely deploy him in a similar role when preparing for the likes of Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, and Braxton Miller, as well. Jefferson said having a quarterback like Hinder was "a great help to our system."

"I feel like he's just as fast as all these other guys. He can throw, he can run, and he has those good reads, so I feel like we can prepare really well with him."

Nick Forbes and Khairi Fortt have missed most of camp with injuries, but Jefferson didn't think that their reduced practice time together as a unit would be a factor. "I wouldn't say so," he said. "The young guys [Michael Barton and Hardy Nickerson] are stepping up. They can fill the role as easily as Nick or Khairi would, so I'm not worried about that."

Though he is now the starter, Jefferson said his mentality remains the same.

"I'm going to come out and work every day and just try to get better, try to get these young guys on board, because I know they look up to me. Just gotta be that positive role model, and just do what we need to do to win games."

As camp begins to tick down, though, he did admit that the defense was "tired of hitting the offense," and ready to "hit a different colored jersey," instead.

"To be honest, we're way ahead of last year. I can tell from all aspects - offense, defense, special teams. Everything is just going how it's supposed to be. Things are just clicking."

Next week, he'll get his chance to show everybody just how true that is.

BONUS QUESTION:

Name one player - besides yourself - who you think is going to have a break out season.

"I'll say Khalfani at running back. He's making a lot of plays out there, so you gotta watch out for him."