Q&A with CB coach Al Pogue

Cornerback coach Al Pogue addressed the media about having both Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw return in the secondary, being more vocal, improving and bulletin board material.

– How have you seen Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw develop as leaders and how do you see them making an impact not only on the cornerback group but on the whole defense?

“Abrams-Draine is a silent warrior. He doesn’t talk much. He talks in short spurts. He just wants to come in and do his work and leave and I told him that’s all fine and dandy and everybody can’t be a rah-rah guy, but you are charged with the task of leaving a legacy with these young guys. You have to show them how to lead. It may not spill over to everybody, but as far as how our room is concerned, you have to show these guys how to lead and what it takes to be the next potential KAD or be better than him.

“When you come back you want to say we have a solid foundation, and here’s what our expectations are and our standards are. You want to be able to hold these guys accountable for keeping that standard.”

– How do you feel returning one of the best cornerback tandems in the country, especially Rakestraw coming off of that ACL injury in 2021?

“I was happy for the kids, especially Ennis because he struggled with confidence in the knee and with KAD I progressively saw him get better each game. So, just trusting me and for us to have that success breaking up the ball, it gave them the belief that I can continue to develop them. We did well finishing on the ball, but now we’ve got to finish with the ball. We’ve got to get these interceptions. If you don’t like what people are saying about you or you feel like people are undervaluing you on Twitter 一 because that’s their news, get more interceptions and they’ll put up your name with the others. But we just use that stuff for fuel.”

– Every day in December and January there was an announcement that one of your guys was coming back, how much of that made you sleep easy at night when they decided to return?

“Whenever you can get that production back it’s big, but to get both of them back I think it spoke to the program and the culture coach (Eli) Drinkwitz has established here. Kids love being in the program. They trust us and more importantly I think this speaks volumes to the staff because the kids believe that they can improve and that they can and want to get better and that these guys (the coaching staff) can help them get better, so they trust us and it works out for everybody.”

– Every defensive coach is back as well this season. How important is that in a second year under Blake Baker?

“Continuity is always great. Everyone understands the scheme and we all kind of know how to push each other. It’s like a brotherhood within the brotherhood and I think that’s really big. You have to credit not only coach Blake Baker for allowing us to have the voice to say this is our defense, not my defense. This is our defense. ‘Hey, Pogue, what are you bringing? (Linebackers and co-defensive coordinator) coach D.J. Smith what are your thoughts? (Defensive end) coach (Kevin) Peoples what are your thoughts?’

“Also, for coach Drinkwitz to make sure that it happens 一 I’m sure guys had opportunities, but we wanted to be here. So, for him to have us here and make it available for us to do that is huge.”

– Blake Baker said this is an equal-opportunity defense where the best guys will play. When you have so many guys who could play how do you go about figuring that out in spring ball?

“It drives excellence. You kind of have some guys who have established like ‘hey, when you put me on the field I’m going to play.’ Now, spring in my opinion, gives the younger guys the opportunity to show ‘hey, coach I’m chomping at the bit too and if you give me the opportunity I’m going to make the most of every rep.’ Then, the guy in front of him knows that if he peaks the young guy may go by him. So, spring is good and healthy competition. It’s always healthy even for us coaches. Coach Drink challenges us every day to be the best teacher, best recruiter or who can get the most guys on the phone. So, competition is always good.”

– How important is spring ball for someone like Marcus Clarke, who didn’t have spring practice with you guys last season? Same thing for Dreyden Norwood? Who played well last season and is continuing to develop.

“It’s huge. Again, to have the rep count that Ennis and Kris had (last season) it was a streamline. For me, I want to develop those guys. I want those guys to have an opportunity to show ‘hey, coach when given an opportunity I’m the guy and I can continue to build.’ We always talk about being an elite unit and spring is really big.

“Clarke is a guy who didn’t have a spring. He just came in the fall, but now it gives him an opportunity to get more reps, not only from a defensive standpoint but from a special teams standpoint to establish an identity for himself.”

– Pro Football Focus they don’t have any Mizzou guys on these lists. When you look at these lists that probably should feature Rakestraw and or Abrams-Draine 一 how much of it is taken and used as motivation, but also looking at them and telling them they have to prove it?

“No doubt, coaching is about motivation and if social media is going to give it to us we’ll take it. I just have to tell them that there are some nonbelievers out there. So, just when you thought you made it 一 obviously you haven’t. So, you got more work to do. It’s really easy for Rakestraw because he’s just a competitor. I mean it fires him up. It fires Abrams-Draine up too, but Rakestraw is going to talk about it. He doesn’t like the disrespect, but I tell him it’s okay. You’re always going to have nonbelievers and doubters. You just have to go out and work and right when you are ready to give up just think about not being put on those lists. Think about being No. 2 and No. 3 in pass deflections (in the conference) and you’re not even being mentioned you’ve got to use it.”

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