Opportunity knocks for Danny Spond this spring. He's ready to answer.
Spond has been settled at the dog outside linebacker position for the past two seasons but unable to make a mark as playing time went to Prince Shembo and Troy Niklas. Now things are different with Shembo shifted to the cat position and Niklas playing tight end.
Spond knows there's an open starting job for him to grab.
"Going into the season you always set high expectations and you want to meet them no matter what your role is," said Spond, who had 13 tackles in 10 games last season while battling a hamstring injury. "I know what my role is, I've addressed it and now it's time to put it in action."
There's plenty working in Spond's favor, starting with a lack of competition. The only clear alternative at dog linebacker is Ben Councell, who's finishing out his second semester on campus.
Spond is unique among the outside linebackers because he's been slotted in one position for well over a year. Along with that comes a certain amount of ease.
"I'm real comfortable with the spot and all my jobs," Spond said. "Now I can just react and play football how we've all grown up loving the game. I'm feeling real comfortable at it now. It's just all about having fun."
The 6-foot-2, 248-pound junior also has the benefit of perspective.
Last season the dog linebackers often gave way to safety Jamoris Slaughter, who would slide up to the line of scrimmage. Having a defensive back close to the line during nickel situations gave the coaching staff certain versatility.
Moving into next season Spond wants to remove that from the package with his ability to provide a similar skill set.
"It's a position where you have to have a lot of speed for the edge," Spond said. "You've gotta be able to come down and get on the line too but having it be a little bit like that (defensive back) ... definitely works in my advantage and stuff. I've been real comfortable with my drops and covering slots. I enjoy it."
Spond has been running with the first team all spring, so early returns are positive. He has also added a little leadership to his plate. Spond has been bringing Councell along as the former four-star prospect comes off a red shirt freshman season.
Guiding younger teammates is something to which Spond gravitates.
"Now I'm into my junior year and have more younger guys at that position," Spond said. "I definitely have to take on a leadership role. There's a lot of responsibility, hold the younger guys accountable, correct them when they're wrong, they correct me when I'm wrong and we definitely learn from each other."