With the departure of Jermaine Kelly, Andre Chachere and Maurice McKnight to professional football careers, senior Chandler Hawkins and junior Zamore Zigler give the 2018 Spartans experienced players in the secondary from different perspectives.
Hawkins has been a safety and special teams player since the 2015 season. After two seasons as a big-play running back, Zigler went into Coach Brennan's office, asked to be moved to the defensive side of the ball and was granted his wish. In both cases, Spartan fans will see Hawkins and Zigler in different jersey numbers this fall. Hawkins will be wearing #1, Zigler, #24.
For Hawkins, he is #1 on August 7, since it's his 22nd birthday.
"It's my birthday today. Kind of weird. Got here when I was 18. Now, I'm 22 and still here. I love it. Love the fact that it is my day," says Hawkins, a three-time Academic All-Mountain West honoree who is impressed with the camaraderie of the 2018 Spartans.
"I've seen a lot of good things from us as a unit. The leadership has been really good from seniors. Seeing everyone come together as one has been a great feeling this whole camp. Every practice has been very productive. I like the way we are looking this year."
Zigler concurs that through the spring, summer and first week of practice, he is sensing a nice cohesive bond, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
"(The) defense has been performing great -- high energy. We have our days -- highs and lows. Overall we have high energy. It's a different vibe. Everybody's talking. There's a lot of communication on defense. It's fun and it's good," said the Spartan enjoys the challenges of being a cornerback.
"The transition's gone pretty good. As a running back, you only have to learn one position. Now you move to DB, and you play corner, you have to learn both positions and sometimes `nickel.' It's diverse and different, but I'm feeling comfortable now getting back to it. I haven't played it in two years. I feel good about it.
"It was something I asked for. My whole time (in high school), I was a defensive player and I always wanted to play defense. I asked Coach Brennan. It was a decision I wanted and he and Coach Carter were all for it. I was happy they believed in me."
The Spartans have their first day off from practice on Wednesday, August 8, and resume practice on Thursday, August 9. There is a Saturday, August 11 scrimmage on the practice field beginning at 5:00 p.m. followed by the first "Movie Night" in CEFCU Stadium. "Little Giants" is the feature film. There is no charge to watch the scrimmage and $5.00 fee for Movie Night for adults not yet members of the new Shield 365 donation program.