2009 Outlook, Part II

Part II of an interview with Coach K.C. Keeler

72 Hen, GoHens.net special correspondent
February 4, 2009

Due to NCAA recruiting restrictions, we were unable to post the continuation of the 2009 Outlook article until today. Continued from Part I...

GH: Can you discuss your decision to bring in a new Offensive Coordinator and move Coach Ginn to WR Coach?

Keeler: Brian Ginn is a terrific football coach. I can honestly say, no matter what level of football I would coach, he would be on my staff as a QB/WR/RB or TE coach. He is a wonderful recruiter and the players’ love playing for him. After the ‘07 season when Kirk decided to go to Rutgers, it didn’t take me long to decide to hire Brian as our OC. I have a very strong belief in Brian as a coach, and as you can see, I used the word "have", because I still have a very strong belief in him as a coach. In hindsight, the reality is that I put Brian into a very difficult situation. Even the most veteran of OC’s would have struggled with some of our shortcomings on the offensive side of the ball. First, we got poor QB play. Second, The graduation of 4 senior offensive linemen and the injuries to the 2 other linemen in the spring, we were not as strong on the offensive line as we thought we would be. Third, we had injuries to our top two RB’s and after we moved Kervin Michaud to RB, he ended up getting hurt and we lost him as our answer at RB and as a WR for most of the season. And finally, we had a lot of new coaches, coaching a lot of new positions on the offensive side of the ball. As a former OC myself, I’m disappointed that I didn’t do a better job at helping him work through our struggles. So the decision was, after the poor performance by the offense, I wanted to take some time to evaluate what direction to go. I felt that it was in the best interest of the program that we bring someone in with some experience to help the offense progress and get back to the level that can help us win a championship. I know Brian would have loved to have the opportunity to right the ship on his own, however, I thought the more prudent thing to do was increase the quality of our staff by bringing in an experienced coach like Jim Hofher.

GH: What were you looking for in an OC?

Keeler: . Because I believe I have a very talented group of coaches on the offensive side of ball, I thought it prudent to bring in an experienced coach. I was looking for someone that had experience in various offensive schemes, someone who had worked in a 1-back offense, someone who had a high proficiency at the QB or WR position, and someone who had been in a position of leadership before. I spoke to approximately six coaches on the phone and then brought in another six coaches for interviews. Each interview took anywhere from 2 to 2½ hours. These were initial interviews to get a feel of the depth of the coach. However, when we interviewed Jim, we went for 5½ hours and not only did he have all of the attributes listed above, he had an incredible presence and confidence that I felt would fit perfectly with my staff and players. Jims references were incredible, but more importantly, he was very impressive in his interview. Much like Nick Rapone was the perfect fit for my defensive staff and players, Jim Hofher is the perfect fit for my offensive staff and players.

GH: With a new Offensive Coordinator on board, will there be a change of philosophy in the 3-point stance in the offensive linemen?

Keeler: First of all, I have always been a guy that likes my offensive linemen in a 3-point stance. In 2002, our OL coach, Kyle Flood, convinced Kirk Ciarrocca and myself of the benefits of being in a 2-point stance. For example, pass protection and blitz situations get much better vision from a 2-point stance. Also the fact that we are a zone team, all of our initial footwork is lateral. Kirk and I bought into it, and we scored a lot of points in the 2-point stance. When Jim Turner became coach, he experimented in the spring and found that the offensive linemen preferred being in a 2-point stance. Under Damian Wroblewski, we have moved to where we use a 2 and 3-point stance at times, depending on the game situations. I’m sure this is something that will be evaluated again, but as I said before, we have scored a lot of points in the 2-point stance. Understanding the zone scheme, you do realize there is a lot less straight ahead movement and more lateral movement.

GH: The State of Delaware had several Division I-A and I-AA players this year. Do we recruit the state hard enough?

Keeler: There is only one state in the country that every single year we get a coach into almost every high school. No matter if they have a prospect or not, and that is the state of Delaware. We also hold a spring clinic for coaches, focusing strongly on the Delaware high school coaches. We recruit the Delaware kids very hard. Many of those kids had scholarship offers from Delaware, many of them visited campus in the spring, and some came through in the fall. But we don’t offer Delaware kids just because they are from our state.

GH: Please give your overall impressions of the 2009 recruiting class.

Keeler: We are very pleased with the recruiting board that our staff put together throughout the past year. To expand our pool of prospects, we expanded our areas & increased our manpower in the south. Gregg Perry went into Georgia, which has terrific high school football. Also, we added a strong presence in Florida with 3 coaches. Both the west coast and northeast parts of Florida proved fertile grounds this year. The only other territory that I am considering on moving into would be the North Carolina area. We’ve had some success via phone and mail as you can see with All-American Charles Graves and DT Siddiq Haynes. Also, adding Jim Hofher to our staff will add to our presence in North Carolina. He has had three different stints in that area, two at Wake Forest and one at North Carolina.

Offensively I thought Brian Ginn did a tremendous job of managing the offensive recruiting board. We had two top goals. Our first goal was to bring in an older QB and a high school QB, which we obviously feel excited about with Pat Devlin and Trevor Sasek. We had Trevor in person at one of our camps and he had a very impressive in person work out. It is really an ideal situation if we can get Trevor to sit behind Pat for a year to learn the offense, gain experience, and to get in a weight program. Our second goal on offense was to get bigger and stronger on the line. I couldn’t be happier with the way this played out for us. We established very early on, who our top linemen were. And to get all four of them, could be the highlight of this class.

Brandon Heath is a Big 33 player from PA that is 6’4½", 300 lbs. And has great feet. We see him as a future tackle for us. He was recruited by top schools in the CAA, most of the MAC’s, and had late interest by both Penn State and Virginia.

Adam Citko is a 6’5", 325 lbs. Lineman that we plan on playing at guard. He has very good feet for such a big man. All of the MAC schools and the top CAA schools had interest.

Nick Cattolico is 6’4", 330lbs. Again, he has great feet for a big man and we plan on playing him at guard. He was originally offered by West Virginia in his junior year. That cooled off and we got him interested in us pretty early in the process and got him committed in late Sept./early Oct.

Erle Ladson is 6’5", 275 lbs., and just recently turned 17. We love the upside that Erle has. Of the 4 offensive linemen, he is the one that you definitely would like to redshirt.

Cody Magill is 6’4", 240 lbs., and will play TE. He had offers from East Carolina and Syracuse. He chose us at the end of September.

The goal for us at the WR spot was that we wanted a big WR and a dynamic WR. We believe we found both.

We are excited with the commitment of Rob Jones. He is 5’10", 170 lbs. He is a punt returner, can play QB in the wildcat, and almost reminds you of a little taller Aaron Love.

Mike Milburn 6’3" 200 lbs., runs a 4.6 forty. He was at one of our camps and did a nice job. He was behind some Div. I guys his junior year at DeMatha High School so he didn’t really get a chance to play his junior year. They ran the ball a lot his senior year. He has the potential to be a good receiver in this league. He is also a great academic kid.

We took two RB’s in this class. We were looking for a speedster/dynamic person who could help us on returns. Walter Davis is this person. He runs a 4.38 forty. We also wanted to take a bigger back and we feel we found him with Leon Jackson. Leon is 6’0", 190 lbs., with a frame to be 200 lbs. He has very good vision. He was voted one of the top 24 players in the Jacksonville, FL area.

Defense:

Nick and his staff have done an outstanding job of rebuilding the defense over the last three years. I thought it was another really good recruiting class on that side of the ball. In the secondary we got two young men from Glassboro High School.

Ricky Tunstall, who is 5’11" and a rock solid 190 lb. A corner that can play safety, punt return, kick-off return, and was right at the top of the dynamic pool of WR’s. We love the fact that Ricky can do so many things to help out our football team.

Tim Breaker is very similar to Ricky. 5’11", 190 lbs. He played on teams that won 24 straight games in the last two years. Tim played QB, can play corner, safety, punt return, kick-off return, and gives us a lot of flexibility to help us win. Tim also had a Buffalo offer.

Kasseim Everett was one of the top RB’s in the Philadlphia area. He was the leading rusher for the city. He was at our camp and we loved his speed, and the fact that he can play corner, RB, kick return, and adds a dynamic component to our special teams.

This year we were looking for outside linebackers and we found three that we are really excited about.

Carl Smith is 6’1½", 212 lb. Carl can run and really strike you. He has a great body for special teams.

Cazavious Ray is 6’1½", 205 lbs. We found him late in Florida from an outstanding high school (Booker High School in Sarasota). We loved his athleticism and he will absolutely hit you.

Mike Hirt is 6’ 220 lbs and a very physical athlete from the Pittsburgh area. He may be able to play inside if needed.

We took 4 defensive linemen:

Thomas Huff is 6’3", 250 lb. He is an outstanding player from Sherwood High School in Maryland. He is very athletic and would love to see if we can get a redshirt year to get him bigger and stronger. We feel that he is the kind of athlete we would like to play at the DE spot.

Bobby Kennedy is 6’3", 285 lbs and very athletic for such a big guy. He is a very dynamic player and is also nationally ranked in the discus. Bobby’s dad, Brandt Kennedy, was a player here back in the late ‘70’s.

Lance Miller is a 5’11", 325 lb first team, all-state, defensive lineman from an outstanding program. (Mainland HS, New Jersey). He got some attention from some of the Div I schools late and after he committed to us. We feel he will command double teams inside.

Irvin Titre is 6’, 305 lbs. We found him late in the process. He was being recruited by Northern Illinois. We were looking for another big body inside. He is built a little like Julian James, but a little thicker. Can command double teams, can play the nose, or 3-technique. Gives us a lot of flexibility.

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