The following full-media interview session with Cal cornerback Camryn Bynum was conducted at Pac-12 Media Day on Wednesday, July 24. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: You guys had a pretty outstanding year defensively last year. What did you work on personally this offseason?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Personally, I worked on my speed. We had a really good speed and strength program as a whole with Coach Becton. Football wise, I worked on my press technique. I worked hard bump, not backing up and giving enough space. I’m now using my length and my physical attributes to be able to help me in my press, mastering my footwork every single day and being able to not give as much ground in my press technique so I can be physical with receivers.
Q: What is the chance for some of you guys to take that next step to go to the league? All of you guys are back. What does that mean for you to have everyone back?
CAMRYN BYNUM: That’s just another great year. We know we can build off what we did last year because obviously we had a pretty good season last year. Now we know we left a lot on the field and we can do a lot better. We’re able to master our scheme and do a lot better with the big picture and being able to make more plays this year.
Q: To what would you attribute the differences in the defense? Last year, Cal was one of the top defenses in the Pac-12 certainly. You’ve been at Cal for how long?
CAMRYN BYNUM: This will be my fourth year. I say, just our knowledge of the game, just knowing route concepts as a secondary. Our coaches get big credit for that, just how much they teach scheme and how much we teach -- we call it “above the neck” football, having the mental part of the game locked down because everybody has physical attributes and everybody’s athletic. People you’re going against are athletic but if you’re able to take the mental part of your game seriously and be able to master your mental -- knowing route concepts, if one route’s coming now you know it’s about to come behind you -- everything like that helped us take the next step as a defense.
Q: Coach Alexander has recruits extremely excited about visiting Cal and a lot of guys are committing. When did you guys realize that you had something special in him as a coach?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Right when he got in, just his message, his love for the game, his knowledge. Obviously he played in the NFL and had a really good career in the NFL and college so he has experience. He knows a lot of people, has a lot of knowledge from other guys, people at the next level, people under us, people around the whole league. He has a lot of knowledge to pass down to us and he’s obsessed with teaching us new stuff. Right now he’s in Miami with the Dolphins at their training camp trying to pick up some nuggets to bring back to us. He’s obsessed with it and helps us mentally be obsessed with it also.
Q: How is the defense’s mindset different than past seasons coming into this year with such high expectations?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Now I think we have the confidence knowing that last year we had a great season, but we’re not complacent. We’re working harder than ever because we can’t be worse than we were last year and mentally we can’t fall back. That’s probably the biggest thing for all of us: take the next step, be able to master your game. Not just be good, be great.
Q: How do you find yourself balancing academics and athletics?
CAMRYN BYNUM: It’s tough, but I’m able to do it. My first semester at Cal was rough and it took time to adjust with big classes and lecture halls. I wasn’t used to that coming out of high school. Now, you just know that you have to go all in to both. You have to take advantage of the resources they give you. We have tutors, learning specialists that are there to help you. They’re getting paid to help you and they want to help you. You can’t dread going to tutoring because at the end of the day you can’t do it on your own.
Q: How was the transition to Cal? It’s a bit of an eccentric town.
CAMRYN BYNUM: The city’s a lot different. Berkeley has a lot more going on than I’m used to, they don’t have many parking lots. I’m more laid back so I live off-campus, trying to get away from that so I have some peace. Berkeley’s a great city but there’s a lot going on. It’s something you have to get used to for sure.
Q: Did you have a favorite class?
CAMRYN BYNUM: It was a class I took last semester called Sports Tech, an Industrial Engineering class. It was a start-up business so we teamed up in groups of four people in our class and built a start-up business. We were meeting with alumni, mentors, people who wanted to help you start your business. People were getting funded and getting started on real life stuff. It was my favorite because it was actually applicable to life We started an online recruiting and engagement platform for gamers. As an athlete I got recruited by Hudl, but gamers don’t really have that. This is like Hudl and LinkedIn for gamers. I’m not much of a gamer but I know it’s a big industry now. We’re going to continue it even after the class.
Q: In four years, Cal went from the worst statistical defensive backfield in the Power 5 to possibly the most dominant in the conference. How does that kind of transition happen? What kind of work went into that?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Just the mental aspect of wanting to be better. We knew that we could be a lot better. The coaches we have now are a big blessing because they’re all really educated about football. They teach us the right things. They get us physically ready, but being to play it mentally was the biggest step we took from that year until now.
Q: Justin Wilcox has a defensive background. What can you say about your offense and the strides they are making?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Over the offseason, their work ethic has really made a big stride, wanting to be a lot better than we were last year. Recruiting. We have a lot of people that came in, freshmen we expect to step up. The offense has really been working, putting up new plays. We’re doing play around practices twice a week, they’re drawing up plays on their own. They’re challenging the defense, making really big strides, getting a lot better than they were last year, and they’re hungry for it.
Q: Does that get frustrating at all, defensive struggles like the Cheez-It Bowl?
CAMRYN BYNUM: I enjoy it, because that’s what defense is for. Obviously we didn’t do our job the best we could because we gave up 10 points. If we don’t give up those points, we win. We don’t look at them as not scoring enough. We look at it like we didn’t stop them fully.
Q: Are there any Pac-12 receivers you look forward to facing this coming season?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Everybody, but for sure guys like Tyler Vaughns at USC and Michael Pittman. They’re really good receivers. They have a lot of hype around their names. I’ve been going against them since high school and in 7-on-7 tournaments. They are really fun to go against.
Q: With the uncertainty around the offense, how big of an emphasis are you putting on conditioning this offseason?
CAMRYN BYNUM: We don’t focus on that just because of the offense. We want to be able to last, have endurance, play the same in the fourth quarter as in the first as a big picture thing.
Q: Are there a lot of winnable games this season?
CAMRYN BYNUM: We can beat anybody. That’s our mentality behind how we work out and how we approach everything every day. Last year, we were able to beat the team that played in the Rose Bowl. We know in our hearts that we deserve to be there and small mistakes that we made during the season put us behind. A couple of games that we barely lost put us a step behind. We for sure see it as wide open.
Q: What kind of exercises help you break up passes?
CAMRYN BYNUM: A lot of ball drills. Mainly, I don’t work too much on the pass breakup. I focus on everything leading up to it. My mentality is that if I do everything here, the quarterback’s not going to throw me the ball. When I do work it, I work tennis balls, being able to run at the corner of my eye, be able to try and catch the ball. I’m looking at my receiver, I’m able to see out of my peripheral vision that the ball is coming and I need to make a play on it. A lot of stuff with either ball drills or running, then having somebody throw the ball and at the last second try to catch it. Those are things that can help my coordination so I can detect the ball when it’s coming.
Q: Are there any notable Cal alumni you look up to?
CAMRYN BYNUM: For sure, Marshawn Lynch because he’s a Cal legend. DeSean Jackson. Nnamdi Asomugha, a great DB who’s probably going to the Hall of Fame. He had a great career at Cal and through his whole career in the NFL. He’s a guy I like to watch and get film on, asking coaches if they know him so he can maybe come down and coach us up a little, just to get some knowledge from him. That’s what I’d really like to get.
Q: During your time at Cal, you’ve obviously emerged as a leader. Are there some younger guys who could be next?
CAMRYN BYNUM: I see Elijah Hicks, he’s a year under me and probably one of my closest people on the team. This whole offseason, we made sure that our schedules are the same, workout schedules are the same. He moved in with me, so he’s a guy who really deserves to be here in the future because his work ethic is above anybody I know. We put in all the same work, so he deserves to be here just like me next year. I see him as a leader. He’s outspoken and he puts in the work, leads by example.
Q: Evan Weaver talked about losing a lot of body fat. I know he looked like a pretty powerful guy last year, but how much better does he look coming into this season?
CAMRYN BYNUM: He looks a lot faster, a lot smoother, and more appealing to the eye. Him cutting the weight that he needed to has helped him be more athletic and be able to move around a lot better. Now he’s running with running backs with ease. He’s able to go across the field and make plays now. 7-on-7, he’s making plays so he’s looking a lot better, like a true linebacker but also able to run. Pac-12 football, it’s a throwing game so he needs to be able to catch up and he’s able to do that.
Q: Is he also more vocal out there now without Jordan Kunaszyk playing?
CAMRYN BYNUM: He’s always been pretty vocal, he’s a loud guy. For sure, he’s one of the vocal leaders on the team in workouts and speaking up to people period.
Q: How important is education to you?
CAMRYN BYNUM: It’s really important. I realize that’s probably the most important thing going through life as a whole, being able to be educated on anything. Going to Cal, you really have to take advantage of it because the degree carries a lot of weight. Not even the degree, the education you can get from people in the network around you. You could probably learn more from them than you would in school based on how much they want to help you. I’ve been able to tap into that, see the importance of it, and take advantage of it because Cal alumni really want to help you. It can carry a lot of weight even outside of football.
Q: Did you pick up anything different in the last two years playing against the Arizona offense?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Two years ago, obviously he (Khalil Tate) was breaking records running the ball, so that was a big emphasis going against them. We had to contain the quarterback. Last year, they put more focus on him sitting in the pocket and trying to make throws. He has a really strong arm. Obviously, they have great skill positions. J.J. Taylor, he’s a great running back. Those are two guys that we really had to focus on. They really dialed it up well. They had a really good Cover 4 beat us last year, I know that for sure. In the first quarter, they got us on one of them. I saw that they were really able to make adjustments. A lot more aggressive, passing the ball. Before they were running the ball and successful with it. Last year, Khalil was comfortable throwing it, their receivers were good receivers. They were really more impressive trying to make big plays, use the explosive plays to their advantage.
Q: When last season you beat the Pac-12 champion USC in the Coliseum, how was that a foundation for this next year?
CAMRYN BYNUM: That goes to show us as a team that we can play with anybody in the conference and give us the confidence that we deserve to be there. We need to be perfect on the road against teams that we know we can play with and not giving up those losses to teams that are coming down to the fourth quarter. It comes down to small mistakes such a penalty, blown coverages that really came back to bite us later in the season. We can play with anybody but we can’t give up these games that we should be winning.
Q: Even with how dominant the defense was, you guys kind of struggled a bit in the red zone. What are you doing this season to improve upon that?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Over 7-on-7 player-run practices all through the offseason, we’ve been doing half the practice in the red zone so we can get used to the different route concepts that we’re going to get in the red zone. We’ve really been focused on knowing how offenses are going to attack us when it gets tighter and they don’t have the vertical field. Now they’re going to use the horizontal field and try to spread you out to bring something back inside, or vice versa try to bring you in to go out. Now we know how where we’re getting beat on that stuff, so we’re working twice a week to fix those problems.
Q: What are the benefits of 7-on-7 practice?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Stealing reps. Especially my team, playing 7-10 games in a tournament day, we pride ourselves on playing man coverage the entire game. The amount of reps I was able to steal the whole offseason versus people playing in zone coverages in 7-on-7, being able to steal those reps and get the amount of reps you get in a season game during the offseason. You’re not going to become rusty at any time because you’re getting 1-on-1 man coverage reps every couple of days. I think that’s a big help to players now, being able to basically have football in the offseason.
Q: Do you still get to work with Anthony?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Yeah, I work with him every time I’m back home. He sends me drills to do up here. He’s about to come up right before fall camp just to get us right and put us through a couple of workouts if he can. I work with him a lot, every time I get a chance to I go back home to try and get some work in with him.
Q: What have you seen from the wide receiver player-run practices?
CAMRYN BYNUM: They’ve made a lot of strides, especially Jordan Duncan. I’m going against him. I try to get as much work against him because he’s made really big strides this offseason with his speed, his releases, all that. All of our receivers overall are looking really solid, especially the young guys stepping up. I think our receivers will be a lot better this year, just based off of the work they’ve put in.
Q: What does the win over USC on the road last year tell you about you guys? Is that something that you take with you to this year?
CAMRYN BYNUM: That’s something we take with us mentally, knowing that in the first half we didn’t play that well, but in the second half I think we held them to 45 yards, something like that. That was a testament to how we can finish a game and that’s how we’ve got to take it into workouts knowing that we’ve got to finish a hard workout. Now the season’s coming up, we have to finish, get through fall camp, the tough days of practice. Now when the game comes we know that we’ve been training ourselves to be able to finish in the fourth quarter and do as best we can in the fourth, do better in the fourth than we did in the first.
Q: You redshirted your freshman year. Was that due to injury?
CAMRYN BYNUM: No, I wasn’t going to play much given the guys in front of me. I’m really glad I did because I was able to do a lot of growing physically and mentally during that time. Being able to learn football more from an outside perspective because obviously I’m on the sideline watching the games and still being coached. They let me travel, so I was able to soak in all the knowledge with it. Still able to just watch the game, see how it went.
Q: How did that kind of spark the fire within you?
CAMRYN BYNUM: That for sure sparked the fire, knowing that I can really play with these people. I believe I’m good enough, but I need to work to beat these guys out that are forcing me to redshirt because at the time they were better than me.
Q: You mentioned tutoring earlier. What other resources does Cal give you?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Basically, they give you any resources you need. Teachers are really willing to do office hours with you. I remember I struggled with math my first semester and then I had to take it again in summer school. I went to office hours literally five days a week after class for an hour and a half. That’s how I was able to end up getting an A in the math class that I failed the first time around. Teachers are willing to help you. Football tutors, their schedules are free basically so they’re able to help you a lot whenever you need it. The biggest thing is they want to help you. That’s probably my biggest takeaway from the help we get at Cal. People are willing to help you and they love helping you.
Q: Nikko Remigio came in last year and as a true freshman he was returning punts. Was it kickoffs too?
CAMRYN BYNUM: Ashtyn Davis was doing kickoffs.
Q: Is Nikko a guy who can make a big impact this coming season?
CAMRYN BYNUM: I think for sure. He’s stealing the show in the player-run practices. He’s probably Chase’s favorite target right now. We make jokes about it, how he’s getting every single reception but he’s obviously running great routes, running crisp routes to be able to make every reception. Working out with Coach Becton, he’s a dog. He’s vocal, he’s trying to get people to come along and do better. He’s kind of taking the receivers as his own. Especially as a young guy, that’s a big testament to who he is.
Q: What would make this season successful for you and for the team?
CAMRYN BYNUM: As a team, we expect to go the Rose Bowl, win the Pac-12. Winning the Rose Bowl, that’s our biggest goal. Obviously you want to win a bowl game, but not just any bowl game. The Rose Bowl is every Pac-12 player’s biggest goal so that’s what we’re really looking forward to. That will make a successful season. We’re not aiming any lower than that. Personally, I just want to help my team win as best we can and make the plays that I need to. Don’t miss any opportunities like I was last year, whether it be a dropped pick, blown coverage, I got a pass deflection where I could have taken one more step to get the interception. Success for me will come to me when I make the plays that I need to and the ones that I need to make for myself.
Q: I’ll throw it out there because the Pac-12 Networks tweeted it: are you the best shutdown corner in the conference?
CAMRYN BYNUM: I believe so. I’m able to back that up with the work that I put in. Myself, and the help I’m giving to my other teammates, trying to teach them what I know, what I’m being coached. I believe that I for sure am because of the work I put in.