Wednesday, 3 April 2013

GB Student Lions Interviews: Defensive Coordinator Pete Laird

First of all, check out our previous interviews:

QB Coach Ryan Baker
Safety David Saul
Tight End Rob Cartwright

Defensive Coordinator Pete Laird (right) with Head Coach Wayne Hill c/o Bec Edwards
DC: First off, congratulations on being one of the coaches for the Great Britain Students Men’s Program. How has the whole process of being involved in the student program been, from applying, to trial, to now?

As soon as I heard the program was up and running I knew I wanted to be involved. I have served as a player and a coach with GB student programs previously and know what a valuable learning experience they are.

They really push you to be a better coach and you can learn so much from everyone involved. Once I knew Wayne was going to be Head Coach I knew the program would be excellent from top to bottom and fired my application in straight away. I feel truly honored to be selected as the D-Co for this game.

DC: With the relatively short period of time between trials and going to Sweden, with limited training which has been affected by the weather, how have preparations gone going into Saturday’s game?

I think anyone who has come to visit our camps would be impressed at just how much we have got in. One of the benefits of coaching a select team is that the players are desperate to improve and impress. They are a fine group of young men and have conducted themselves excellently thus far. That’s not to say we wouldn’t like more time with them but the pace of our practices and the number of repetitions we get in on a camp day is truly remarkable.

DC: Has it been difficult juggling different playbooks being in BUAFL season, and how has the install gone on the Great Britain Program?

I have to admit to cheating here. As soon as I was appointed as D-Co I installed the GB scheme with my own team (the Edinburgh Napier Knights). We are working from a National Playbook but have naturally adapted, added and refined certain plays and calls. My team’s regular season was disappointing to say the least but I got a great chance to see the defensive scheme up close and get a real feel for its strengths.

When I first sat down with the playbook it was fairly daunting in size and I initially felt we wouldn’t get everything in, but to the players’ credit they have been fast learners and we are at the point where we have added extra plays.      

DC: How has the Great Britain Program measured up to your expectations when you took the position on the staff?

It’s fair to say that it’s been everything I expected and more. Getting involved at the start of the program I have been fortunate to see just how much work Wayne has put in to make this a true ‘National Program’. Everything from the facilities, the equipment, the backroom staff, and the recruitment and selection of players has been top class. The GB Student Lions legacy will be a team that represents the very top of University Football talent in the UK for years to come and in turn improve the standard of our Football.

I hope that British Uni ball seizes this opportunity and we involve more and more players and programs. Having observer coaches and exposing these players to a national system should benefit all of us in the long run.

DC: There are lots of high quality athletes on the squad has anyone really stood out in your opinion?

Unlike a team you would play in the regular season a national team is in the fortunate position of having 45 stars. The talent level is exceptional and it was very difficult to leave the development players behind as they have performed superbly. What is fun to watch is the speed this group has and what smart football players they are. The amount of ‘system’ mistakes has been minimal so watch the Defense swarm to the ball in Sweden.

DC: As, well as quality athletes Coach Hill has put together a top notch staff. What has it been like working with these coaches?

The talent Coach Hill has surrounded himself on our staff is unbelievable. To be able to sit and game plan with some of our best coaches is just such a thrill. Coaches such as Tony Attersmith, Simon Hatcher, Paul Sherrat and Jay Alexander I have worked with before and hold them in the highest esteem but it has been a thrill to see the newer coaches such as Kit Lawson and Paul Summers bring so much to the group. Their abilities remind me of a young Defensive Line coach on the 2000 team called Wayne Hill!

DC: What are your expectations of the game this weekend vs Sweden?

Difficult to say. Sweden have never fielded a student team before and therefore we have had very little scout on what they will do. I have watched game film from every team in the Swedish league and watched both their junior and senior National teams. Their teams run a variety of Offenses so our game plan for Defense has to be a little flexible.

As a nation they also go to school a little later which means their players will be a bit older than our guys. They also seem to have a lot of ‘Viking’ types on their Offensive and Defensive lines which we need to respect and plan for.

DC: Finally, with the World Student Championships being played in Sweden in 2014, what are your thoughts and what would you say to any university player wanting to be on that squad next year?

I hope that we are asked to send a team to the Worlds. We are very aware that the Sweden game is our first step back on the international stage and is therefore not being treated as a ‘tour’. It is important that we represent our country well both on and off the field.

I would then hope that if the trip is a success and our players and coaches return to their teams with a positive experience and improved performance it will encourage more of our players across the country to want to get involved and to push themselves as hard as they possibly can to make the squad. We will also be asking all of our university coaches to have this in mind and to identify and encourage their players to try out for the Lions. I

 would suggest that even the players who did not make the squad have benefitted from their involvement and been able to see the high standard of play we are looking for in our National players.  Not one of our development players has missed a camp since being told they had not made the squad and I think that shows just how badly they want to be involved. I hope we can do all of British Uni ball proud out in Sweden and I hope you will get behind th

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