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December 30, 2010

Tony Jefferson hopes to be a big part of Fiesta Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tony Jefferson is Oklahoma's nickel back, which often means he's in the game to guard against the pass. But against a physical Nebraska team, Jefferson was one of Brent Venables' best players on defense. Will Jefferson continue to be a big part of the gameplan against a physical UCONN team? The true freshmen certainly hopes so.

You come all the way to the Fiesta Bowl to come people watching at the mall with Kenny Stills? You've got to tell me about that...
It's an honor just to be here. It's closer to home so we get this west side weather. There's a lot of Oklahoma fans here in Arizona. I was surprised when I went to the mall and people were just like, 'Are you guys Oklahoma?' Yeah! That's us!

So this probably gives you guys some more ammunition in the Cali versus Texas debate doesn't it?
Right, yeah. We definitely, by far, are ahead of Texas as far as weather. I think they all know that. They ask me, 'Is this how it is in Cali?' Yep. Everyday.

You're going up against an offense that is really known for running the ball and being physical. Do you think you proved something in that Nebraska game that even when you are going up against a physical team, you are still the best option for this defense?
I've been working in the base offense and I've been getting a good amount of reps in that. It's up to Coach Venables as far as who he chooses for that but they're still running a good amount of pass personnel and I go in when I can. When I go in I try to make plays.

I talked to Brent before I came out here about the plans for you next year. He said he tried you at free safety some in the bowl practices and some at strong, but in the spring he wants to explore that more. What do you think about that? Do you like playing the Roy/nickel or would you like to be in more of a base safety position?
I love playing the nickel back position. I'm closer to the line of scrimmage and I just put a move on and make the tackle in the backfield. But practicing free safety and stuff, I got a better feel of feeling out the field and going downhill. That's the type of player I am, going 100 miles an hour and hitting someone at the line of scrimmage. We'll see how it works in the spring and wherever the coaches want to put me, I'll play. But nickel back, I like that a lot right now.

You're in such a fortunate situation as a young guy. It's your first year and you're in a BCS game and a lot of the talk is if you win this you could be favored to be a national champion next year. How important is it to go out and play well in this game to set things up for next year?
It's very important for us to go out here and be focused and play how we've been playing the last few games. More than just trying to come out next year as number one, we've got to prove it to ourselves and to everyone else that we got it together. We had a rough first half of the season a little bit but we got it together. It's just going to be a boost for us next year and a boost for us at the end of the season.

Does the approach feel the same as it was against Oklahoma State and Nebraska and you guys are just trying to keep it rolling?
Yeah. Our team's real locked in at practice and stuff and also in the film room. It's pretty much the same. It's not that much different other than having a little more than we're used to, and mall watching. But we still prepare the same.

How about just your general thoughts on UCONN and how much of a challenge this offense is for your defense?
They're running back's a real good running back. He's a hard runner. He likes to wait and find creases and that's what his best attribute is. We've got to do a good job of stopping the run game. They've got a good amount of receivers that we've got to cover well and play our defense like we can play.

Video by Eddie Radosevich

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