Q & A with Offensive Coordinator Brian Ginn

72 Hen, GoHens.net special correspondent
September 25, 2008

Brian Ginn has been a fixture at Delaware since 1996. From being a key back-up to Leo Hamlett in 1996, to splitting time with Matt Nagy, to team captain in 1999, to offensive coordinator in 2008 Brian Ginn has been a big part in UD football success. Today's GoHens interview was conducted following the Furman game.

GH: You are one of the few people that has played at a university and then spent his entire coaching career at that same university. Has that been a good thing for you?

Ginn: Well, it's been a good thing. Any time you don't have to pick up and move every couple of years it's a good thing. I was coaching here the last couple of years that Coach Raymond was here in the Wing-T offense and I knew that when he retired I would have to move on because not many people were coaching that offense any more. So in order to keep moving forward in this profession I knew that I would have to move on. The nice thing about my situation is that when Coach Keeler came here he brought in guys from all over. Kirk was the offensive coordinator. Brian came in from Wyoming and Kyle from Hofstra. In terms of learning new offensives, it was great for me because it was as good as moving without having to physically pick up and go to an area that I was not familiar with or that I might not like living in. So when the wide receiver coaching job became available I came back for this opportunity. Most people don't remember but the one move that I did make was after the 2000 season when I moved up to Fordham. I was there for about a month but when the WR coaching position became available I moved back for that as soon as Coach Raymond offered it to me.

GH: What is the biggest difference in coaching in Tubby's era compared to today?

Ginn: I think the biggest difference is that Coach Raymond had been around for so long and was so set in his ways that everyone knew "this is how it's going to be done". No one ever questioned anything and there were no discussions on how things were going to be done. With Coach Keeler, every year can be a little different. We're definitely doing things a little differently in terms of practice, off-season workouts, and those sorts of things. Overall, things have changed from year to year under Coach Keeler. With Coach Raymond you always knew what to expect. He was so successful for such a long time, why change anything? That's just the way it was. Now that's not to say Coach Keeler hasn't been successful, but he makes more changes just keeping up with things and keeping things fresh.

GH: Keeping in this same line of thinking, is there a big difference between Tubby's era and today's era in regard to recruiting?

"Anymore, kids want to know what position you are going to play them at. It used to be kids were happy to get a scholarship regardless of where they were going to play."

Ginn: I would say overall it's very similar but today we're recruiting different types of players. Under Coach Raymond we recruited Wing-T type halfbacks and more of them. Now we recruit a halfback every year or two but we're recruiting more wide receivers. Under Coach Raymond it was like, "go find athletes and we'll plug them in". We're more specialized now. We recruit wide receivers to be wide receivers and running backs to be running backs. With that being said, the best running back we ever had came here as a defensive back. So has it really changed that much? You go get the best athletes you can and hope they can play the position that you recruited them to play. I see kids at practice all the time that I know can play other positions. There are defensive backs running around that I know would be great wide receivers and wide receivers that could play defensive back. But really, things are a little more specialized now. Anymore, kids want to know what position you are going to play them at. It used to be kids were happy to get a scholarship regardless of where they were going to play.

GH: I guess Coach Rapone hasn't volunteered to send you any of his defensive backs.

Ginn: (laughing) No. He wants the wide receivers but he's not volunteering any defensive backs.

GH: How is Junior Jabbie coming along? I always thought he might be the type of running back that was closest to Omar in terms of being multi-dimensional.

Ginn: You know, we were really excited about Junior in the pre-season. He had shown us some things that we were excited about. Then, in our first scrimmage, we got about 3 snaps out of him and he went down with a high ankle sprain. He just started practicing again last week and it's a pretty full backfield and there isn't a lot of reps to go around. We're hoping to see more out of him next week. He was just cleared to practice on Wednesday so we didn't get to see much out of him. Tuesday and Wednesday are the big work days. Thursday is clean up day. So we're hoping to see more of him very soon.

"...we were really excited about Junior in the pre-season. He had shown us some things that we were excited about. Then, in our first scrimmage, we got about 3 snaps out of him and he went down with a high ankle sprain. He just started practicing again last week"

GH: Are any of our running backs very good at the little swing pass that Omar ran so well?

Ginn: Probably the best at that right now is Phillip Thaxton but none are in Omar's class.

GH: I was wondering if Jabbie could be effective running that play. It seems like we need to find someone to run that play.

Ginn: It's hard to tell you if Junior could be that guy since we're just getting him back, but we will check that out.

GH: What's the latest with Sean Hakes? We have been reading in the News Journal about his credits not transferring properly.

Ginn: To tell you the truth I'm waiting for a phone call from the NCAA. We thought we would hear from them on Monday. We thought we had a pretty good chance to get him ready to play in the Albany game. But we're just sitting here and the NCAA moves at their own pace. He's doing a great job for us on the practice field we just can't put him in on Saturdays.

GH: You just wonder how something like this can even happen.

Ginn: It's unbelievable. With all the checks and balances, but it happened, and you can't blame anyone because everyone did their job. It just slipped between the cracks.

GH: When I interviewed Coach Keeler earlier, I asked him if the offense would be changed now that you are the offensive coordinator. He said that we have to tweak it every year based on personnel. It appears to me that we are running the same offense that we did when Joe and Omar were here. Have changes been made?

Ginn: The main thing we tried to do this year is to get the ball to our wide receivers quickly. We feel that's where our three best play makers are. We tried to get the screen game going and that hasn't been great for us and we're still trying to iron that out. Overall we're trying to get the ball to our wide receivers quicker and let them make something happen. We feel this will help our quarterback. As far as the running game goes, there is less outside running and more pounding. Obviously Johnathon [Smith] is a different type back than Omar. We're using more two TE's with Rob Agnone being more of a lead blocker. The plays have changed some but it's the same offensive philosophy.

GH: Getting the ball quickly to the receivers is a good idea but many times they are getting it with their back turned to the defense. Isn't there a way to get it to the WR's while they're in motion? Are there some plays where they can catch the ball while they're in stride?

Ginn: Yeah, we're definitely attempting to hit them while they're in stride. Not every pass has been thrown perfectly. Not every route has been run perfectly. Obviously we're trying to work these things out. Several of the passes to Aaron Love should have hit him in stride where he could make something happen. I promise you we're trying to work these things out.

GH: It looks like the Offensive Line has been doing a good job so far. They have only allowed three sacks in three games. How do you grade the OL so far?

"Several of the passes to Aaron Love should have hit him in stride where he could make something happen. I promise you we're trying to work these things out."

Ginn: At this point in the season it's fair to say that the offensive line is further along than I thought they would be. They have done a great job of protecting the quarterback. I think one reason we decided to start Schoenhoft instead of Lou was because he had a better pocket presence. Several times when he was under pressure he has been able to escape and that has kept the sacks down as well. Overall I'm very pleased with the play of the OL.

GH: I have interviewed all three of the quarterbacks and I really liked how professional Robby Schoenhoft came across. However, I know that you can't be happy with the six interceptions versus only three touchdowns.

Ginn: Absolutely not. The only constant that has been here since I played here is that you can't turn the ball over and expect to win. You can dissect the Furman game a million different ways but the bottom line is we had five turnovers. One directly cost us a touchdown. The opening fumble led to a touchdown and the pick in the end zone cost us a touchdown. There's 21 points right there. I watched films with the kids and stressed how important it is to protect the football. Four turnovers by the quarterback is not good enough. In a close game like Saturday, with two good opponents, the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game 90% of the time.

GH: Going back in time to your playing days, you played with a pretty good quarterback in Matt Nagy. Two good quarterbacks and both of you saw a lot of playing time. This year our starting QB was not named until the eve of the Maryland game because the competition was so close. Are things so different today that you can't play two Quarterbacks? I know that since Coach Keeler has been here he has stressed the importance of playing only one quarterback. What are your thoughts? Do you ever see the time when two quarterbacks could play again or is that a thing of the past?

Ginn: I wouldn't say never. It's not something that I would love to have as far as rotating quarterbacks. I definitely want to give Lou some playing time. You know, I wanted to get Lou in much earlier against West Chester but at the same time I didn't want to end Robby's night on an interception. So we put Robby back out for one more possession and we had a nice drive. Then West Chester has a nice drive. So by the time Lou got in, there wasn't much time left. My plans were to give Robby one possession in the second half and then let Lou go the rest of the way. Lou has done a nice job for us and is exactly where I would hope that a red-shirt freshman would be. I feel that we have a very capable back-up and I want to find some spots where we can get him some playing time. I wasn't a big fan of the rotating quarterbacks when I played, but obviously I didn't mind it because it got me some playing time. Having said that, I feel that for the team leadership needs that we have right now, we need to have one guy that they can look to and call their quarterback.

GH: Going back to something you said earlier, you mentioned that you were using more double TE sets to compliment this season's personnel. Looking back to the Maryland game when we had our backs to our own end zone you put in Ruggiero and we pound the ball out to the 25 or 30 yard line. Have you ever considered using two backs sometimes when it's not out of dire emergency?

Ginn: With the two back stuff that we are doing motioning Robbie Agnone around, he is really a second back in terms of a fullback. We're getting the same thing out of that as we would putting another guy back there and I feel that we are better off having Robbie Agnone on the field. None of our running backs are full back types. Ruggiero specializes in goal line stuff. With Agnone back there we can better utilize play action. He does a nice job lead blocking but can cut off when he needs to. Our two back scheme really is two TE's with Agnone becoming the lead blocker.

GH: On the other hand he is also just as valuable as another wide out.

Ginn: Absolutely. You saw in the fourth quarter against Furman we had him spread out the whole time. We think of Robbie as the fourth wide receiver.

GH: You mentioned that you can't win with so many turnovers. Coach Keeler, in his post game interview, said that the team underachieved. Can you relate to that? Do you feel the same way?

Ginn: I think he is correct about the underachieving. I think some of our guys didn't come to play from the first snap. Watching the tapes not only were there missed assignments there were some real bone-head plays. Motions were not going to the right spots. People were not blocking the right people. Routes were run incorrectly or wrong routes were being run. A great example is we drive the ball and have a nice pass and a wide receiver is blocking someone downfield and we get pass interference. The underachieving, in my opinion, comes from the approach to the ballgame. That comes back to us as coaches. We have to have the kids ready to play. That's what we live for the 12 Saturdays in the fall. We have to be ready to play from beginning to end.

"underachieving, in my opinion, comes from the approach to the ballgame. That comes back to us as coaches. We have to have the kids ready to play. That's what we live for the 12 Saturdays in the fall. We have to be ready to play from beginning to end."

GH: I was on the sideline for the Furman game and it allowed me to watch our quarterback up close. I particularly watched his eyes. Now someone had asked Coach Keeler if he was locking onto his receivers and Coach said something to the effect that he is doing exactly what we want him to do. I hope I said that right. At any rate it appeared to me that he was locking onto his receivers and is this how he is being taught?

Ginn: I wouldn't say that. As we watched the films yesterday there were a couple of times when he got the ball quickly to Love and he used his eyes properly and Love got the ball in space. Then there were other plays where he didn't use his eyes properly, stared Love down. On one of those plays Love caught the ball and got smashed. The other time two defenders actually hit each other trying to knock Love out. We have had long discussions about how our eyes can move defenders. He knows where the ball is going but at times he just goes there too quickly instead of using his eyes like you talked about. It's a work in progress right now.

GH: It seems to me that we are pretty efficient running the ball up the middle. Of course you can't do that all the time. Are any of our quarterbacks capable runners?

Ginn: You know, I think Robbie is athletic enough to do some of that option stuff that we showed last week. We'll expand that some. We only had it in on one set against Furman. We'll likely expand that to another set or two. The nice thing against Furman was that they were going after Robbie and that allowed Phillip to get down the sideline on one play and Johnathon got a big chunk on another play. Overall, I would say our quarterbacks are good runners but not great runners. They will get the yards that are blocked for them. But none of them are going to make you forget Andy Hall.

GH: When the decision was made to bring Hakes in for depth at quarterback was any thought given to problems that a left handed quarterback might bring to the table?

Ginn: (Laughing) You know I never thought it would be until the week we were practicing for West Chester. We have all the protections set to go one way and it just looked like Hakes was doing everything backwards. So now I realize that if it is ever going to be his time we are going to have to set the protection the other way or the fake would have to go the other way.

"every school that I went to in Virginia knew that we played in the National Championship and that Joe Flacco got drafted in the first round. These two things came up at every school I went to."

GH: My final question is about recruiting. It appears to me that we are a little ahead recruiting-wise as compared to past years. Is that a fair assessment?

Ginn: Yeah, I think we might be a little ahead of past years. Recruiting kind of goes in waves. The recognition that we got last year was big. I know that every school that I went to in Virginia knew that we played in the National Championship and that Joe Flacco got drafted in the first round. These two things came up at every school I went to. I mean, not only did the football players know but kids just walking out of school would comment about those things. On top of that, we had a great summer with a lot of kids coming in to visit. When you can get a kid on campus and to a game it's a pretty good experience.

GH: Thanks so much for spending this time with us. The GoHens website readers will really enjoy your interview. We wish you the best on the remainder of the season and will be pulling for the offense against Albany.

Ginn: Thank you. I really appreciate it.