This is the second of a 2-part interview with Coach Rocco...
GH: When you played Delaware this past season (2016), and you were preparing for the game, what did you see as Delaware’s strengths and weaknesses?
DR: I felt that, last year, they didn’t handle adversity very well, and they didn’t finish very well. Those were the two things going into the game that I thought we’d be able to take advantage of and/or exploit.
GH: That’s interesting because that’s more of a mental thing than a physical or talent thing. It’s not - “Well, we felt this way about their passing game”, or whatever.
DR: It’s still one of the better-looking teams in the league.
GH: And, there is a certain amount of discussion on the board that would lead one to think some people don’t feel that way. They see the record and say, “Well, we must not have recruited well.” Personally, I have to think that you came in believing that you already have a pretty good stable of players here that just need to be “unlocked” somehow and then, add to them, those that you bring in.
DR: I think that, and I addressed this with the team yesterday, but it all stems from your preparation and then your attitudes and your habits. And, I didn’t feel like our habits were good enough last year to allow us to be at our best in the biggest moments.
I talk to our players all the time about “learning moments and opportunities.” I talk about playing this game with energy, enthusiasm, and controlled emotion. So, what is “controlled emotion”? Well, the game is played on that tightrope of being totally passionate, totally emotional, energetic, but being able to CONTROL your emotions and control the things that you do.
I thought that, last year, we weren’t good in those moments ... we didn’t respond well.
I looked at it a little bit more from that perspective. I think they were talented enough last year to be more successful if they would have handled those moments better.
GH: So in that game was your approach to keep challenging and keep pushing, because they are going to break at some point?
DR: Kind of. Now when we fell behind early because of the fake field goal, that flew a little bit in the face of what I was presenting because the thought was, “Let’s get up on these guys. Let’s get a lead and try to extend our lead. Let’s put pressure on them so they have to perform...”
GH: And then we had the fumble after the long run...
DR: On top of that, they turned the ball over 4 times and then Lauletta hit Brian Brown twice. The one was as good a play as I’ve ever seen. And then he hit Hudson on a wheel route, which was about as good a throw and catch as you’ll get at this level. So, that was it - fumbles, and then Joe makes a bad throw, so the fumbles and then those two throws by Lauletta were the difference in the game.
See, I talked to the team yesterday about the difference between the top and the bottom is not very much. It’s just a fact. When we started the year last year, where do you think Albany and Stony Brook and Maine were? Somewhere right there in the middle.
The first year that we won the league at Richmond, we were picked 9th preseason - 9th! And then we were 5th in 2015. And we won it outright.
GH: You talk about playing a lot of linebackers, but you only recruited one. So, does that mean, in your opinion, you must have a pretty good group of linebackers?
DR: Plus some of the guys that play with their hand on the ground can stand up.
GH: Talking about Spring practice, and practice in general, how active a role do you take in on-field practices vs. leaving that to your assistants and you’re just orchestrating and watching.
DR: Well, I feel like I’m responsible for the tempo, energy, and overall execution of practice. So, I stay very connected. What I tend to do, though, is switch from offense to defense, depending on what phase we are in at practice. Every team period we have is emphasizing something. And then I am usually working more specifically with where I want my attention to go during that emphasis. So, for example, if we’re working on perimeter runs, I might get tuned in to our defense’s ability to set the edge and defend that perimeter run, so I’m a defensive coach for that period, still overseeing the whole thing.
We might move to a blitz period and I’m more concerned or interested in our protection. So, now I’m spending more time in that period working behind the offense in terms of being able to let the guys identify what’s happening. So I feel like I want to be where I need to be, when I need to be there, and doing that the way the practices are scheduled gives me a little more fluidity to do that.
I think, what it has allowed me to do over the years is have more of a presence with every player at every position, and yet still giving all the coaches the opportunity to coach their positions. Some people gravitate to a position. Then they really become a position coach.
GH: Talking about the Spring game, I imagine how you run it is somewhat determined by how many healthy bodies you have. With the relatively high number of healthy bodies you should have this year, how do you anticipate that you will run the Spring game, or is it too early to say how you like to run a Spring game?
DR: You’re not going to like my Spring game. It’s offense vs. defense, there will be a decent amount of ones on ones, but it’s not a real game in terms of scoring points. The defense scores points in different ways - 3-and-out’s - things like that.
What did they do here last year?
GH: It was more like a real game situation, but in the past, it was kind of what you described.
DR: I’ve chased my tail on this one for a while. The first lesson that I had in the “normal game” concept that made me change my thinking was, a number of years back, we played a Spring game, and one player dominated the game because he had a match-up that didn’t work. And it was a hard lesson to learn, but if you’re drafting teams, for example, and you have a great pass rusher and he goes against the 4th or 5th tackle on your team - remember, in Spring you may not have full depth at every position, so somewhere there’s a weak link - and the whole game was dominated by one player, and it was a bad day and a bad experience and I didn’t think we got anything out of the day. I also think that you want to go out there and make it look like you’ve been practicing for 14 days, and if you start mixing your roster you start choosing teams, you’re not really playing the game like you’ve been practicing all month. So the next thing you know you have a quarterback playing with a different center, a different guard with a different tackle, different receiver combinations, everything is different.
GH: Right - so keep your units together.
DR: Keep your units together. There are moments in time when I just tell my kids: “This is just practice 15 - you don’t look at it any differently because I want to get better today. I want to build on what you’re doing today.”
There’s a couple of things about that. We have a very late Spring game - if it was ne week later, it would be categorically too late. We’re late to the point that we’re a week behind most people, 2 weeks behind a decent amount and some people have already started Spring football.
(Editorial note: remember this interview took place on February 18th.)
So I may have to revisit that next year. It’s driven by the school calendar. One of the things I’m smart about is: I know that you can’t put the old square peg in a round hole, and too many coaches try to do that. They come in to a place and say: “This is what we’re doing - this is how I do it.” Then they find out, like 2 weeks in, it doesn’t work. What I’m offering as positive here, though, is, being new, our kids need more time leading in, so I’m comfortable with that. Next year, I don’t know if I’m going to need as much time leading into the Spring. And then it’s the same thing with summer camp. There’s legislation out right now that they move the start date for camp a week earlier. It’s all stemming from this “best method” recommendations from the medical field and trainers. They’re trying to eliminate two-a-days. So they’re saying: “We don’t want any more two-a-days.” And the coaches are saying: “We still need to have 29 practice opportunities.” So they’re saying: OK, we’ll let you bring them in a week earlier, but no two-a-days”. So, to me, that’s a good thing. I think that time isn’t on our side. We need time to install, implement our base, core, fundamental, offense and defense.
So, this Spring I’m comfortable with the extended time, but I think our Spring game is a little late and I’ll probably revisit that next year. And as far as summer camp, if we come in a week early - good! We’ll use that time. We’ll develop a program that will maximize having that additional time because we’re going to want to continue to build those core offensive and defensive systems.
I usually announce captains at the Spring game. I usually announce some element of “Most Improved Player”, which I may or may not do here. Those are some things that have been consistent over the years for me.
GH: I know that we’ve had Most Improved Players, but it’s been a while since I can remember naming captains that early, so that’s good to know.
DR: I follow my calendar. I have a schedule and a calendar - I look at it every year. I tweak it when I need to, but I follow my calendar and the Thursday before the Spring game we vote for captains. I’ll take a good look at it, and if there’s a “hard line” I may say - OK, I’ll name 2 guys. But there’s always a re-vote at the end of August to add. I think you need leadership heading into the summer. I think you miss on an opportunity heading into the summer if you don’t have some guys lined up as captains.
GH: You’ve been through a transition a couple of times now. How do you avoid an internal situation where players say, or feel, “I’m one of his guys, or I’m one of his guys.”
DR: Here’s kind of an interesting story.
When I went to Richmond, we had our press conference and then I had a team meeting scheduled for the end of the day. So I left the press conference and was heading to my office. A bunch of the kids had attended the press conference and at that point, of course, I didn’t know any of them. Five boys follow me into the office. So I’m sitting in my office and the five boys say: “Hey Coach Rocco, we just want to introduce ourselves.” They were all good kids and they said: “Hey coach, there’s something we wanted you to know. We’re all glad you’re here, we’re excited to have you here. We are your 5th year seniors. We want you to know that you’re our 5th head football coach.” And I said: “That’s impossible.” And they said: “No coach it’s not. We committed to Dave Clawson. When we got here, he was gone. We played for Mike London, we played for Latrell Scott, we played for Wayne Lineburg, and now we’re going to play for you.”
So, we went from 0-8 in the CAA - those kids were 0 and 8 in the CAA the year before and went 6-2 and won a share of the conference championship. But the segue for me, or the information that I got from that - I said to myself: “At the team meeting I am going to dedicate this season to those guys.” And that’s what I did at the team meeting.
My first team meeting here, I dedicated this season to the seniors who are coming back. I dedicated this season to them. And I did it because I think there’s a reality, sometimes, that a new guy comes in and starts building for the future at the expense of the present, and I said: “I’m not wired like that. I’m always thinking about the future, but I’m always committed to the present, and we need to win NOW, for you guys.” And I’ve offered that message a few times.
So, to your question - it’s the consistency of message that I think allows people to line up with you. I say and do the same things every day. I value the same things every day, every week. I recognize and praise the same things every day, every week. I’m looking for hard work, loyalty, commitment, selflessness, character - because those are the things that will be the backbone of your program. They need to hear it every day. I’ve already told them - I’ve talked about academics more to this group than anything else I’ve talked about. They are going to understand that I will [tapping on desk for emphasis] and do, value academic achievement and performance. It’s not something that I say once and never say it again.
So, I think you have to offer a clear message, a clear vision, for leadership so they understand what the expectation is. I tell a story about when I went to Boston College, and worked for Coach Coughlin - and I was young, I was 30, and I wasn’t ready for it - the first staff meeting - we met from 8 AM to Noon. He never stopped talking about his vision for the program, and he didn’t have any notes. And it’s just this clarity of what the vision is and what the expectation is, that these kids have to see. That’s the value to bringing your staff. That’s the value. If they don’t get that, then they’re not getting it.
GH: Everybody shares the same vision ...
DR: [Whispers for emphasis...] They all say the same thing.
GH: How did you get such a highly qualified staff to come to you and stay with you?
DR: Well, I don’t know - you’d have to ask them. I would say that one of the values of spending 23 years at the places I did is that I got connected to groups of people that have background and experience at that level. It’s not really for me to speak on - I think that them coming here and following me here is very humbling for me. Now, I do have to say though, that Chrissi gave me the platform to do it. She supported it financially, she supported the staff expansion reality.
So much of what you do in athletics is a “mind set”. If you look at everything from the perspective of being at Michigan, you have the right perspective. Now, Michigan’s not doing everything right, but at least you are looking at it from the perspective that “This is important ... We’ve gotta find a way to make it work ... What do we need to do? ... How can I help? ... What value would this bring?” ... and, again, it gave me confidence and energy to start moving forward and putting this thing together as opposed to: “Coach, I don’t know if we can do that.” “Coach, I’d be a little cautious about that.” You know what I mean?
Here, it’s been “Coach, what do you need me to do?” “What do you need to make this work?” So there’s value in that.
GH: Talking about Chrissi and support - this is always a touchy subject because no one wants the word to get out too soon, so I’m not asking you to address that. But what are the facilities improvements that you would need to make the team better. I know what the fans would like from their perspective. I know, from having spent time in the press box, what the needs are there. But, from your perspective, what is needed to help you get to where you want to be?
DR: I think the things that would eventually show themselves in a newer facility that would make this bigger and better, is a bigger weight room. Our weight rooms are efficient. We have two weight rooms - one here and one across the way in the indoor facility, so we’re efficient, and we are where we need to be. But from a recruiting standpoint, and from the ability to have your whole team in one place at one time - right now things are kind of staggered - I think that’s a big deal. Even in this building right here, the newness of the building is centered around other programs within the athletic department. And to Chrissi’s credit, she’s right in here in the older part of the facility. So we do need more of an expansive space, for coaches and staff, for recruiting, for receptions within recruiting, for meetings - you know, our meetings are not all conducted here - they’re sporadic. We’re fine - we can make it work. But these things - the weight room - and then, I think that, holistically, we’re moving into a world where the “wellness”, the nutrition, the training room - this whole area and department is continuing to broaden and expand. And to be able to have more rehabilitative opportunities in our training room. You know, with the pools, the underwater treadmills, anti-gravity equipment - these are real things. They sound like big “asks”, but they are really becoming more and more common.
So, I think those are some of the things that are more “nuts and bolts”. Here, we have a lot of field space, but we have a lot of teams, so you’re still organizing and competing for time and space, which is all good - I’m a steward of the athletic department, but I do think that, as you take some of these things away from this building for football, everyone gets better, everybody gets more space, everybody gets ownership of the things that are in this building and then we can take advantage of increased weight room capacity to train our team, increased training room and accommodations for injured athletes, and preventative activities, and then, more space for meetings. And then, it’s hard to put a real value on that for recruiting, but it’s real. And then, to your point, our head trainer, Dan Watson, showed me a picture, I think it was 1996, and he said “Coach, this was the first team that I was a trainer for” and I was joking around and said his hair hadn’t changed and he said, “Yeah, and the stadium hasn’t changed either.” So that conversation is real, so to your comment earlier, the fans are saying: “Why aren’t we winning a hundred games - we should be the best team in the country.” Well, wait a second - have you been to JMU, have you seen what that looks like? Have you been to Liberty - have you seen what that looks like? Have you been to North Dakota State - have you seen what that looks like? Have you been to South Dakota? Have you been to New Hampshire since they redid their stadium?
GH: You know, we won the National Championship in 2003. And, I was at a business conference in Malvern in Spring of 2004, and the conference didn’t have anything to do with sports, but K.C. Keeler was brought in as a motivational speaker. There were apparently no other UD grads there, so K.C. and I sat down at the lunch break and ate and talked Delaware football. And he laid out to me, obviously way too prematurely, what his vision was, and what plans he said were being considered at the time for a football weight room and academic center, for closing in an end zone ala Navy, for putting in club seats, and all those sorts of things. And, you’re probably aware of this, but they even put out conceptual drawings ...
DR: Yep, renderings.
GH: ... and nothing happened, and the fan base asked: “Is it ever going to happen?” I think all they wanted was for someone to put a stake in the ground and say: “Yes, it’s going to happen, This is the timeframe, This is where we are - we’re in conceptual design phase, or we’re here, or here. The only answer we ever get is: “We need money to do this and we haven’t gotten enough money, we haven’t gotten the “big” backers yet to allow this to happen.” It’s never been what the University is going to kick in ...
DR: Have they said what the University is going to kick in?
GH: No, at least not to the majority of the fan base. There’s never been ANYTHING other than “It’s coming, it’s coming - we need more money.” That’s what we hear.
I think there is a huge amount of frustration that has built up because this was first mentioned in 2003. It’s now 14 years later and nothing “concrete” (no pun intended) has ever come out. Fans just want an honest update that says: “This is where we are. This is where we’re going. We can’t tell you that. We can tell you this.” etc.
DR: I would say this to you. It goes back to this little diagram I did here with an umbrella, you know, we all have to be marching in the same direction, and I just don’t quite feel yet that everybody, and that’s part of what you’re saying, you just said it about a different entity, but we need to have that alignment, so we’re all aligning and moving in the same direction together. It’s the only way you get anything done. I do think that we’re a lot closer to being able to make statements about the future and what that’s going to look like, because we have new leadership here, and new leadership up on main campus. So, I know my place and I know my job. And my place isn’t to preempt any of that.
GH: I’m not asking you to.
DR: I know you’re not. It’s valuable for me to hear that.
GH: You know, people would say: “Why didn’t anyone ask me, Joe Snuffy, season ticket holder, to make contributions to some kind of building fund?” And the answer always was: “That’s not what we need, we don’t need the little contributions, we need the big ones.” Well, if all these “little” contributions had been coming in for 14 years, I think we’d have something worthwhile built up by now. They never asked, so people never contributed. Anyway, you get that.
Moving on, I had a question about recruiting: There has been talk of an early signing period, would that apply to FCS as well?
DR: Well, it’s being voted on, and again, I’m on the Board of Trustees. The only reason I mentioned that to you up front, is that I’m in all of those meetings that generated the legislation. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s going to pass. There is an amendment out for a December early signing date which would be consistent with the current Junior College date - I think it’s the 3rd Wednesday in December. FCS is 100% on board.
GH: What’s that do for us?
DR: Well, it does a lot of things for us. And, again, even within the BCS, there are levels of power and resources. Within FCS there are levels of power and resources. One of the hardest things to deal with at the FCS level is to hold onto your commitments in January. And, you’re spending money to go see kids that have been committed to you for months because if you don’t, someone is going to steal them at the end. Sometimes, kids are signing with schools and they’ve never met the coach, and never been on campus, but they’re getting this late offer, this late interest. If you were to sign in December, the dust settles. If I have 15 scholarships to give in a certain year, I’ll have 9 or 10 signed in December and I can focus in on the rest of the class, and it will be that way for everybody. I do think that Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame, will sign their whole class, which is even better, because that means they can’t take these other kids that are still out there. And it keeps these schools, like the ones I mentioned, or Rutgers, or whoever, from telling all these kids “You know, you’re our next guy and if I was you, I wouldn’t commit to Delaware because we’ll be talking about you tomorrow and there’s a real good chance you may up with an offer from us.” So, it just eliminates that confusing message that is put out there that the kid is next in line. “Next in line” means “You’re not the guy”. That’s the only thing “next in line” means. Now, you can be “next in line” forever. They could lose 8 guys and you still might be the “next in line”. But this new proposal changes that strategy in recruiting so that people can’t use that any more, because you have already signed.
And there is talk about bringing them in for official visits in the April-May-June timeframe ... still trying to clear that up. So a junior could actually finish up his junior Spring and take a couple of official visits. FCS is in support of that - only because, if we can do it, we’ll do it, we just don’t want to say that we’re NOT going to do it if the other guys are doing it. I don’t see us using it a lot. But I would think that the early signing date would be a really valuable tool.
GH: Is it too early today to ask you, as you prepare for Spring ball, what you think the strengths and weaknesses of the team are?
DR: I think it’s unfair, because I think what will happen is - I don’t want to be in contradiction to anything I say after Spring ball - it just wouldn’t be fair to me, or anyone really, because it would be easy to say: “Well, he said this and now he’s saying this.
GH: Right, I understand.
DR: I’ll know a lot more after Spring ball.
GH: How many team meetings have you had so far?
[Note: Remember, this was Feb 18th.]
DR: I’ve been in front of the team 4 times. And that changes starting this week. We’re going into a totally different phase of our player evaluation / player development process. I’ll be with them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We’ll be early morning workouts those two days - no football - just assessments and skills. Things change dramatically this coming week. We’re in a five-week push until Spring Break.
GH: Now, in the past, I know that we’ve started Spring ball before Spring Break and then resumed afterwards; and last year, we waited until after Spring Break to start. How is it set up this year?
DR: That’s kind of the problem I referenced earlier. Spring Break is later than I’d like to see, and I didn’t want to start, stop, and start, so I kind of “back-ended” everything, which is the most common approach most teams take - to start after Spring Break, unless they can get it all done before - like Duke, for example. It’s all driven by the school calendar.
GH: You talked about your preference for the 3-4 so I assume that’s what we’ll be playing here. On the offensive side of the ball, what do you anticipate?
DR: We want to be able to establish the run. I think we do have a good group of running backs, and a number of tight ends in the program. We want to be able to run the ball with power and authority, run the ball with confidence, and then work our play-action game.
You always want to stress the defense, and the defense is stressed when they have run-pass conflict. You can create that conflict when you have the ability to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage. So, any time you’re doing that you want to be able to have pass actions off your run actions. So, when you’re running he ball and running the ball, and then it looks like your running the ball, you’ve created stress for the defense - run-pass conflict - and that gives you the ability to get behind people and to have big plays. And that’s really what we did at Richmond - every now and then you might have seen us spread out and pass and catch the ball quickly, but that’s not really what we did the majority of the time. We were more, if not under center, behind center in the rifle or pistol. So, under center with one back or two backs ... run, run, run, looks like run - pass. Run, run, looks like run - pass. All of our run actions, though, had a pass action off of it.
GH: We seem to have had a good offensive line - I don’t know about great, but good - and yet even though we ran the ball well, blitzes and pass rushes seemed to give us fits, and one of the questions was: “What kinds of things can we do like screens and draws to take some of that pressure off?” Do you do any of those things?
DR: We do a lot of those things. We do a lot with formations to keep the defense from locking in on a single formation. But to your point, a year ago, we really weren’t that “choreographed” in our pass protection here. We had a lot of breakdowns. And that’s a little more “scheme” or understanding of “scheme” than really putting it on any one player. So, I don’t know what our communication system was a year ago, obviously our communication system will be different going forward, but we definitely have to do a better job putting together our pass protections and the teaching of our pass protections.
GH: That’s good to hear. On the other hand, on defense, we didn’t get seem to get a lot of sacks or tackles for loss - not a lot of blitzing. Is that anything you do or not?
DR: Well, we’re a little more apt to play “base” defense than blitz defense, especially on 1st and 2nd down.
GH: ... but playing the 3-4 it’s going to be different anyway.
DR: The 3-4 is totally different. The thing about the 3-4 - I had a conversation with Charlie Fisher the other day, Charlie is the head coach at Western Illinois - and he’s going to go to the 3-4 this year, and he’s bringing in a coordinator to do it.
[Coach grabbed a piece of paper and drew up a formation...]
So whether an offense is in this formation, with 2 tight ends and two wide-outs, with the running back behind the quarterback ...
... or in this formation right here with 4 wide-outs ...
If they are in these formations, it’s because they want to be completely symmetrical. Every run that you run in one direction, you can run in the other. Every pass you can throw to one side, you can throw to the other.
GH: As opposed to having a tight end and a slot, or whatever ...
DR: Right. The only defense that is symmetrical is the 3-4, which allows you to be totally balanced and in synch. Any “Four-down” defense, (defense with 4 “down” linemen) you’re moving your line one way and usually, if you move your line this way, you move your safety up. So all the offense will do, if they are going to run the ball is they look for this guy [indicates left end...] and they run away from that guy [indicates).
Same thing here in the pass game - if you’re going to rotate to one side, they’re going to throw to the opposite side and vice versa.
So, the 3-4 is symmetrical. It is truly the only defense that allows you to deploy your personnel so that you are not short on numbers.
So, in saying that, in the college came today, you’re seeing a lot of this ...
... in fast tempo.
So the offensive coaches are looking for the “down” safety in a 4-3 and they are doing everything away from the down safety. If you are in a true 3-4, there IS no down safety so they have to kind of take a step back - it slows them down a bit - they have to see if they can get you to move to see how you’re going to rotate and react. So, I think from a starting point, the 3-4 is the right way to start.
The other thing that happens - when you have four hands “on the ground”, the first thing that happens when the offense comes out of the huddle, the center or the quarterback will say “Three down!” or “Four down!” So they are telling everybody on offense how many players they recognize as “down” rushers. When you’re in a Four-down defense, the quarterback comes out of the huddle and says: “Four down! Four down!” So the five offensive linemen know they are responsible for the four “down” guys. Anybody, including my wife, knows that those guys with their hand on the ground are rushing. So, in the 3-4, you don’t know who the 4th rusher is. It can be any of the linebackers or defensive backs. So, they’re saying “Three down!” and they have to identify who the 4th rusher is going to be. That’s problematic for these people. And that’s why the really good NFL teams that have created some real conflict for people have settled on the 3-4. It gives you chance to play outside linebackers that can rush the passer.
So, the reason I drew this up is to make this point. In today’s game, you have to be able to drop 8 men into coverage - you have to be. You could see empty sets ... whatever. You have to be able to cover with 8, and if you have four hands on the ground, you can’t. Now, I’m not saying you have to “live” in that, but you have to be able to show the offense - “If you’re going to be able to deploy people, we’re going to be able to deploy people. If you’re going to bring three people over to one side, we’re going to bring 3 people over.” When you have four hands on the ground, you’re kind of locked in.
And the game has changed so much, in particular in college, where you’re playing these teams that want to go fast. You know, some teams line up in one formation and play the whole game in one formation - spread you out, like to see what safety comes down, and then run the play away from the safety.
GH: So, as a casual fan, I suspect that you probably have linebackers that fit that scheme. How important is the nose tackle, and do we really have someone that fits that role.
DR: Yes, it’s very important, and Coach Levern Belin is a really good coach. He’s coached in this system at UVA, he’s coached in this system at Liberty, he’s coached in this system at Richmond, and we have people that can play in it - no doubt in my mind.
But, to your point, the other 3-4 mentality is “slant and angle”. So, if you looked this year at some of the top FCS defenses in the country, 3 of the top 10 play the 3-4, if not more. Some of them are “slant & angle” teams and some of them are more “base” technique. If you have to slant & angle, you slant & angle.
GH: Is that driven by the coach’s preference of scheme, or is it driven by personnel?
DR: It’s driven by personnel, and then, what happens is, if you have a preference of scheme, you recruit to it. I’ll use Wofford as an example. Wofford has had a lot of success over the years. Wofford is never as big as the other teams are - never. They’re smaller, they don’t get big linemen - they’re a slant & angle team - and they’re very good at it. And they take these big linebackers and make them ends and they slant & angle. To a broader point, if you want to be 3-deep for Spring ball and you play “Four-down”, you need 12 defensive linemen. You’re never going to have 12 defensive linemen, ever, ever, in Spring ball. If you have 9, you can be three-deep in a 3-4. Now, the shift goes to linebackers. Well, big safeties can play linebacker in this defense, a lot of these linebackers are big safeties. Smaller D-ends can play linebacker in this system, so you have a little more margin for error. We’ll recruit a kid and say: “Well, he’s going to be a safety or a “rover” and both those positions play back”. Or, maybe we see him as a “bandit” or a “cat”. They both play up, but they’re both outside linebackers. We might recruit a kid that we think might play as an outside linebacker and we might start him at safety, just to see if he has the skill set to do it, because then you’re playing with a big safety - that type of thing. But there are places to go. If you recruit D-tackles, and they can’t play D-tackle, there’s no place to go.
GH: Last question: Coach Brock used to be willing to have a meeting with GoHens board members twice a year. He had it upstairs here in the Carpenter Club. He’d do one in the Spring and another just before the season started. Would you be willing or interested in doing that (understanding that you may not want to do it right away)? We’d generally have 20 - 30 people and they are typically people who can’t make it to Touchdown Club meetings because they have jobs or other daytime responsibilities. I would coordinate with Coach Brock on a day and time - usually after a practice - and Jerry O would help with the set-up.
DR: I think I’ll do it - I’m not moved to do anything soon. I met with the Touchdown Club yesterday (Feb. 17th), but I stuck to my guns, I said I wasn’t going to say anything about personnel right now. So, it was more directional, philosophy - those kinds of things. And those are better kinds of conversations to have in the introductory period. You know, right now, when I’m asked: “What do you think of this guy?” Well, I just don’t know, it’s too early and I don’t want to contradict myself - there’s no upside to that, so, maybe we can do it after Spring ball. I’m still learning what the different entities are here. For example, I’ve got a weekly radio show. I know Dave did the weekly Touchdown Club, luncheon. GoHens.net is something that might happen twice a year as far as face-to-face. Those are only the things you know about, I also have weekly CAA meetings every Monday, I’ve got a press conference here every Tuesday. So some of these things for me, I’m just putting them down and figuring them out to see what all that looks like. I know that we’ll never live in a world that allows all these things to happen at one time. I even mentioned to Smitty and JD when they were in here talking about the Touchdown Club - “Have you guys ever considered doing it in conjunction with the radio show?” To me, it’s just a common-sense thing. That way there’s one event that accommodates two groups. They were great - they certainly didn’t say “No” to that idea, they basically said: “Well this is why it is the way it is.” And I heard them and they’re right.
I keep going back to this umbrella diagram of getting everyone aligned, and I know it’s not going to filter all the way down - I understand that, but when you talk about the president and AD and UDAF and all head coaches and all assistant coaches, student athletes - we have to be funneling under the same thing, and the more we can do that, and send the same message, [whispers for emphasis...] the faster we’re all going to be able to move forward!
GH: Understood. JD and I were talking about having our nighttime GoHens meeting also be a Touchdown Club meeting, but apparently a number of the Touchdown Club members have some reservations about that. But we’ll keep looking at it.
So, what I’d like to tell the GoHens board is that: “Coach is not opposed to a meeting, but it wouldn’t happen until after Spring ball and he and I will sit down then to figure out the details.”
GH: Last “Last” question: Have Coach Raymond and Coach Kempski introduced themselves to you and “inserted” themselves into any activities? Neither of them are known for being bashful about giving their opinion on things.
DR: Yes. In fact, Coach Raymond was here on signing day and we had a really nice exchange there in the lounge - he was supportive of the quarterback.
We then spoke about a few other topics and headed out the door. I thanked Coach both personally, and on behalf of everyone on the GoHens board.
I hope that I’ve been able to capture just a bit of who Coach Rocco is, what he wants to accomplish, and why he and his staff should be great for UD players, fans, the local and University communities, and the entire state ... in short, everyone who has a passion for UD Football.
Thanks again Coach Rocco!