Senior Tyrrell Herbert, left, and sophomore Barry Church have made safety a position of strength for the Rockets.
When the University of Toledo defense breaks a huddle, as a tradition they say in unison, B.I.A. It stands for, Best in America.
That s what we shoot for every year, to have the best defense in the country, senior safety Tyrrell Herbert said. Improvising off that, Herbert and fellow safety Barry Church have a related goal for this season.
We ve got this idea that together, we re going to lead the nation in picks, Herbert said.
The duo from Pittsburgh had a decent warmup year in 2006, when they combined for seven interceptions. The best pair in the country last season played for the national champion Florida Gators Ryan Smith and Reggie Nelson totaled 14 picks.
But because it is Herbert s final year at UT, it s time to get serious.
We want to be the best safety tandem in the nation, Church said. We ve known each other since we were little, and when I came up here, we set a goal for ourselves to be the best safeties, and eventually make it to the league [NFL]. We re trying to realize that goal in his last year.
Herbert and Church have fashioned playful competitions for as long as they can remember. They both played in the Penn Hills (Pa.) youth league growing up, in different age groups but still friends. At Penn Hills High School, the older Herbert showed Church the ropes.
Church, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound sophomore strong safety, didn t need much guidance when starting out at UT last year. He was an All-Mid-American Conference first-teamer as a freshman, and two of his four interceptions went for touchdowns, tying a school record.
We compete a lot, Herbert said. We talk about who s going to get more interceptions, and more tackles. I thought it was great, him coming in, making his mark on college football right away. It s just more competition.
Herbert had three picks and a touchdown of his own at free safety last season, and was first on the team in tackles with 74 to Church s 71.
The teammates took their competition especially literally in the first quarter against Akron on Oct. 28. A minute and a half into the game, Church grabbed an interception on UT s 2-yard line. Then with four minutes left in the period, Herbert intercepted a pass and took it 36 yards for a score.
Church thought Herbert, 6-2, 193, also should have received All-MAC accolades, but said, He ll get it this year.
The Rockets had their second fall practice yesterday morning and took a team picture in the afternoon. UT s coaches said they encourage lofty goal-setting at the beginning of the season.
I think it s a great thing, head coach Tom Amstutz said. I think the first step of achieving great things is to think about it, set goals for yourself.
Understanding if [a player is] saying he s going to lead the nation, then he has to back it up.
Said defensive coordinator Tim Rose: Those high goals make you as good as you can be or better.
Herbert knows he and Church have a tall task, but he believes it will ultimately help them, no matter the result.
It should make both of us better, Herbert said. We re hoping to go out there and have a big year for both of us.
Contact Maureen Fulton at:email@example.com 419-724-6160.
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