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Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; In an exclusive interview with BlackAndGold.com, University of Texas (Defensive Backs) coach Duane Akina provides a unique and detailed perspective on Kenny Vaccaro, the Saints’ top pick in the 2013 draft. BlackAndGold.com: Coach Akina, we know that this is a ...

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Old 05-10-2013, 04:17 PM   #1
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In an exclusive interview with BlackAndGold.com, University of Texas (Defensive Backs) coach Duane Akina provides a unique and detailed perspective on Kenny Vaccaro, the Saints’ top pick in the 2013 draft.

BlackAndGold.com: Coach Akina, we know that this is a very busy time of the year for recruiting new prospects at the university. We appreciate your taking the time to speak with us.

Coach Akina: It’s my pleasure; glad to have the opportunity.

BlackAndGold.com: Did Kenny get a scholarship to play for the Longhorns?

Coach Akina: Yes. He was recruited (from a smaller high school in Texas), but his stock rose tremendously after we brought him and other high school players to a football camp. The players were told that the winning team would get a Univ. of Texas ball cap. The way Kenny was playing, you would think that the prize was a million bucks. You might also want to know that we brought Kenny in as a wide receiver, and he played at the receiver position for all three days of the camp. But as each day of camp passed, I saw how Kenny was giving 100% and throwing himself all over the field on every play. That’s when I told our wide receivers coach (Bobby Kennedy) that I wanted us to offer Vaccaro a scholarship --- as a Defensive Back.

BlackAndGold.com: What stands out about Kenny as a player ON THE FIELD?

Coach Akina: You’ll find that he separates himself from other players by his passion for the game. When he puts the uniform on for the Saints, the defense will love him; the offense will hate him! At Saints’ practices, the offense will probably be asking: “When can we get that guy to slow down?” He gives his best each day. He is 216 lbs., and is very physical. He’s flexible in the positions he can cover on defense. He can line up in the slot, he can play man to man, cover 2, as well as weak and strong safety. He’s a great blitzer, and (as I mentioned before) he has a great passion for how he plays. He’s unselfish, and will play special teams or wherever he’s needed. On special teams he’s not afraid to be the gunner, and has two blocked punts during his time here.

BlackAndGold.com: What stands out about Kenny Vaccaro on the SIDELINES AND LOCKER ROOM?

Coach Akina: First and foremost, he gets the respect of his locker room. As a rookie, he will respect the veterans. He’s confident in his ability, and will take time to be aware of Saints’ traditions and policies. He will know where and how he fits in. He will train and prepare while remaining passionate for the game. He’s a tough kid both physically and mentally. All of Kenny’s actions will gain the respect of his coaches, teammates and fan base.

BlackAndGold.com: Coach, I’m not wanting to offend you or the Longhorns. But your 2012 team (like the 2012 Saints) was not quite up to the standard you’ve set in recent years. Yet, despite that, Kenny was recognized as a top talent nationwide. Why do you think that Kenny is so highly regardless, even though the Longhorns were not in contention for a National title?

Coack Akina: We actually won 9 games in 2012, and a lot of teams would have liked to have that record. In recent years, the Texas Longhorns have been one of the few major universities whose football team won 10 or more games for 10 years in a row. Kenny was actually a part of the Longhorns’ ’09 team that played Alabama in the National Championship game. I guess you could say that Kenny carries a long and proud tradition of Longhorn teams that have set the standard high. Longhorn Safeties who preceded Kenny are Michael Griffin, Earl Thomas and Michael Huff. Kenny takes it as a mantle that was passed to him, and he’s carrying on our long tradition of having great Safeties. He plays with tremendous pride, and has the attitude that he will take the team on his back if he has to.

BlackAndGold.com: Is there a present or past NFL player that Kenny models, or reminds you of?

Coach Akina: With respect to game preparation and knowing his position – I think of Earl Thomas. If you’re talking about being a very physical player and a hard thumper, it has to be Chuck Cecil, whom I coached at the Univ. of Arizona.

BlackAndGold.com: Not all players make an NFL roster. What qualities about Kenny give him a shot at the Saints’ final roster?

Coach Akina: His flexibility, both physically and mentally. Some players are gifted physically, but are not consistent in bringing the right approach to the game (lane protection, taking the right angles, wrapping a player up with a tackle, technique in shedding blockers, etc). Then, there are other players who know what to do and HOW to do it, but lack the physical attributes necessary to succeed as an NFL player. With Kenny, you get the complete package. He can literally do it all, and that’s not an exaggeration.

BlackAnd Gold.com: Did you see the Sports Science segment on Kenny?

Coach Akina: Yes, I did. I thought it was great. One of the things they highlighted in the video was Kenny’s closing speed and his explosiveness. It reminds you of Patrick Peterson. The Sports Science segment is yet another reminder that Kenny’s the real deal.



BlackAndGold.com: Is there a game in Kenny’s career that stands out as one in which he performed as a stud player?

Coach Akina: There were several, but the game last year vs. West Virginia was probably the best. Here you have a receiver (Tavon Austin) who an NFL team traded to MOVE UP to get as the #8 pick overall (because he was arguably the best receiver in the draft) that Kenny Vaccaro covered for about 80% of the game. Kenny did a great job in limiting Austin’s opportunities, while remaining stout in run support for our team. Another game was vs. Texas A&M, which we now call “The Eternal Scoreboard”) because it was the last time Texas would play the Aggies in a regular season (as we had done traditionally in years past). Kenny played big in that game, and came up with an interception. Kenny’s play was key because we came from behind vs. the Aggies and won on a last second field goal with 0:02 seconds left. We won In another game a couple of years ago, Kenny defended the all-time receiving yards leader in the Big-12: Ryan Swoops. Kenny shut him down, and took him out of the game (for production).

Watch this video showing Vaccaro’s play vs. WV Mountaineers. Key in on his play at the 2:00 min mark.


BlackAndGold.com: Competition will be tough on the Saints at the defensive back position. What is your prediction for Kenny Vaccaro: starter, backup or practice squad?

Coach Akina: I don’t know who Kenny will be competing with for a spot on the roster. But I believe it will be very difficult to keep him off the field.

BlackAndGold.com: Any predictions for the Saints in 2013 with Head Coach Sean Payton back in the saddle?
Coach Akina: I’m a Saints fan, and a big Sean Payton fan. I knew him when I was coaching at Arizona, and we played San Diego State when

Sean Payton was their running backs coach. Their team had a running back by the name of Marshall Faulk, who put up over 300 yds. of offense on us single-handedly. The Saints have all of the pieces, and Coach Payton knows how to use all of them well, The Saints also have one of the greatest QB’s in the game in Drew Brees. No matter which level of play you’re on, be it Pop Warner, High School, College or Pro, you need a good quarterback. The Saints have one of the best. I see Coach Payton leading the Saints to a great season this year.

BlackAndGold.com: Any final thoughts, coach?

Coach Akina: That great Saints’ fan base will really love Kenny Vaccaro. I am confident of that.

BlackAndGold.com: Coach, it was great to get your thoughts on Kenny Vaccaro. On behalf of BlackAndGold.com and Saints fans everywhere, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. All the best to the Longhorns in 2013: “Hook ‘em Horns!”

Coach Akina: You’re welcome, all the best to the Saints.

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Old 05-10-2013, 04:35 PM   #2
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

Good stuff man.

Coach, I’m not wanting to offend you or the Longhorns. But your 2012 team (like the 2012 Saints) was not quite up to the standard you’ve set in recent years.
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Old 05-10-2013, 04:39 PM   #3
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

I do really enjoy these pieces Stealthman, but "Best Saints’ Safety Ever" might be going a bit too far, a bit too early.
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Old 05-10-2013, 04:41 PM   #4
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

Originally Posted by FinSaint View Post
I do really enjoy these pieces Stealthman, but "Best Saints’ Safety Ever" might be going a bit too far, a bit too early.
FinSaint: I hear you, man. But if you look at the title it says >potentially<... AND there is a "question mark" at the end. I'm not calling him anything until he shows his stuff on the field. It was just food for thought.

Thanks.

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Old 05-10-2013, 04:49 PM   #5
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

Originally Posted by Stealthman View Post
FinSaint: I hear you, man. But if you look at the title it says >potentially<... AND there is a "question mark" at the end. I'm not calling him anything until he shows his stuff on the field. It was just food for thought.

Thanks.


Yeah, and that's why I was trying not to be too harsh.

Amidst all of the offseason hype about which player will have a breakout season and who'll fit perfectly into what system - it all begins to wear on you after a while, and I guess that was behind my initial reaction.

Anyway, the interview was an interesting read, and I do really find your pieces enlightening - especially compared to the pieces you find on the "professional" media sources.

Keep up the great work!
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:36 PM   #6
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

good stuff i know a few of us are watching him closely
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:29 PM   #7
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

Best ever? I sure hope so!
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:35 PM   #8
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

Best ever? Seriously?

Wow. Maybe we can bronze his jock before training camp.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:50 PM   #9
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

STOP IT! STOP! STOP-STOP-STOP!

I didn't like him being our pick, but I behind him now, supporting him; BUT DAMN, let the kid take his time becoming an NFL player, a South Louisiana resident, Growing up to be an Adult...
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Old 05-10-2013, 08:02 PM   #10
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Re: Kenny Vaccaro: Potentially Best Saints’ Safety Ever?

Whazzup with you guys? Nobody is "crowning him!" It was just a rhetorical question; not a statement of fact.




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