March 13, 2013

Coordinators Corner

With spring now only a week away, Purdue's coordinators are preparing what they want to accomplish in the their 15 practice sessions.

It's a long, considering the first-year Boilermaker staff will be seeing its personnel live for the first time, and has to install at least the foundation of its schemes.

Following, Gold and Black talks to offensive coordinator John Shoop and defensive coordinator Greg Hudson about their goals and more for the next month.

Offensive coordinator John Shoop

Gold and Black: What are the priorities for you in the spring?
"Our goals are we want to establish an identity. We want to be a physical football team and I hope that we establish a physical identity and the guys get that in their mind. From there, we really want to try to figure out our top 22 players. That's probably the two deep, but sometimes we also want to figure out who our best six wide receivers are and be able to figure out roles for different people.
"But generally, we want to develop a physical identity, figure out our two-deep, or best 22, and we want to master some concepts. We're a concept-driven team and if at the end of the spring we can feel good about four types of run concepts and maybe eight types of pass concepts, we'll feel great about the guys going into the summer then and really working on those. Then, maybe add to them or see what else we can sprinkle in come summer camp.

"That's it. We've talked about it: physical identity, find our two-deep and really drill these four run concepts and about eight pass concepts. And have our guys get confident."

Gold and Black: Is it quite an undertaking when it's a first spring practice? It seems like a lot has to be accomplished.
"You're right. One of the things I always worry about is that probably the first half of spring we probably won't do as much situations as I think a team should do. Really I'm all for starting to do situations on the first day of practice, but really we're going to be working on the snap count and formations and things like that. That's what will be really difficult. The first half of spring we have to get these concepts installed. Then, the second half of spring we really need to start talking about those concepts relative to situational elements of the game, i.e. two-minute, redzone, coming out, different things like that.

"That's kind of where we are."

Gold and Black: How much communication now can you have, as far as showing film, looking at the playbook, etc.? Can you do those things in anticipation of the spring?
"Well, there's still the limited work week for the guys. We basically meet twice a week with the players and that's all that we have. That window that we meet with them draws us right to the edge (of the limit) coupled with their lifting, so as an offensive coordinator, as any coach, we certainly don't get to meet with the players as much as we'd like - that's safe to say - or as much as the players, I think, would like. This is their craft and they're dying to learn this craft, but the rules are the rules."

Gold and Black: You talked about finding an identity. You guys want to be physical. Do you feel that's how you have to play in the Big Ten?
"I think it is. If we can develop a physical identity on offense and in our offensive line, then I think it helps our team overall. Nothing helps develop morale on a football team like being able to run the football and run it whenever you want to, not part of a 'Check with me,' not part of a 'Couple guys in the box.' Run it whenever you want. Things like that not only make your offense better, they make your defense better, they make your special teams better. When you develop that identity - football is a tough sports, a tough physical sport and you better treat it as such."

Gold and Black: Fans, in general, get excited more about vertical passing games than pounding the ball into the offensive line. You're probably aware of that. Is it part of the offense, too?
"Let me say this: Coaches get excited about a vertical passing game, too. This is what I'll tell you, chucks of passes come when you have conflict of assignment, when you have pass-action. You can't have great play-action pass plays where the quarterback throws it over the defense's head if people don't expect the run. So which comes first? Well, being a physical team and running the football comes first and if we can get people to respect the run, I'll promise you this, we'll throw the ball deep as well as anyone in the county, if we can create that conflict of assignment."

Gold and Black: What are you interested in seeing out of the quarterbacks this spring? That's probably going to be Topic No. 1 for the spring practices.
"Yeah, no doubt. It'll be a real challenge to get all the guys the work that they need. Ultimately, you just can't do it. There's six guys in our room right now who can play and they're not all going to get the work that they hope to get. You just can't get six quarterbacks reps. But you're right, what do we expect from them? We expect our quarterback to go in and be efficient and they know they are going to be evaluated at every step of the way, from meeting rooms to individual sessions to team sessions and scrimmages; everything they do is going to be evaluated and I'll tell you these guys treat the game with a great deal of respect. They really do and they've been working the way that good quarterbacks do.

"We just expect these guys to come out and be real efficient, complete a whole bunch of passes and execute the offense. Really, we're not asking them to do anything but get the ball in the hands of some guys that can make plays for us. Quarterbacks are more facilitators than they are anything else."

Gold and Black: Do you hope to have a starter named by the end of spring? Ideally, is that want you want to do?
"Ideally, you've got a returning senior who has about 1,000 passes in his back pocket. I'm not going to paint myself in a corner by putting a timetable on it and I don't think Coach Hazell would either. This is what I do believe now: Players make decisions, not coaches, and we've got to give the players every opportunity to make that decision. I might be able to answer that question a little better maybe midway through the spring or something, but I sure won't put myself in a corner by saying 'By this time, we're going to have it.' I don't know."

Gold and Black: You're probably interested too in seeing those quarterbacks. You've seen them on film and probably throwing some around here, right?
"No, we really haven't (seen them live). In the morning workouts, the 6 a.m. workouts, you're not allowed to have a football. It's really hard to evaluate a quarterback without a football (laughter)."

Gold and Black: You have some openings for skill position players now, but also you've got some freshmen coming in the fall who could help out. There's room for them to contribute, right?
"No doubt. Heck anybody who has on a helmet, we're going to give them a chance to contribute. We really are. Last year, everything about freshmen was thrown out the window; a freshman won the Heisman Trophy, so if we think they can help us we're going to give them every opportunity to prove it. If they're a fifth-year senior or an 18-year-old freshman, it doesn't matter to me."

Gold and Black: Around here, we've seen a two- and sometimes three-quarterback system. It's not your goal to do that. You want one guy to win the job to play quarterback.
"I'd really like that to be the situation. I sure don't know what the past was. My respect for the previous staff is deep; this offense had some production last year and I recognize that. A lot of that production has graduated: the quarterbacks, the running backs. But I think any quarterback or coach would tell you that it's better to have one guy go in and be the quarterback than try to rotate it. We'd like for the players to make that decision, that one guy sort of separates himself from the rest."

Gold and Black: Have you had a chance to look at personnel on film and what's your early impression?
"Yeah. I've watched all the games from last year and a lot of the practices from last year, even some of the guys that may not be on film much, I've tried to watch them in practice. And of course, I've watched all the freshman in high school. I'm always reluctant to say too much because I don't want to leave somebody out, but I'm really excited about a guy like Gabe (Holmes) at the tight end spot and (Justin) Sinz and Carlos (Carvajal) and Sterling (Carter) and now (Patrick) Bade moved out there. I think there is some good depth at that spot.

"I think Chuck (Torwudzo) and Dolapo (Macarthy) look like good split ends. They really have a chance to play that position and (Gary) Bush is a good player. B.J. (Knauf) is super quick out there in the drills and (Cameron) Posey just look likes a real coordinated and quick athlete as well, so there looks like some good guys and we're really excited to see them out there on the field. Again, it's hard to judge a receiver if you're not throwing the football to them as well. I'm also really excited to see Akeem (Hunt) and (Robert) Gregory run the ball. Gregory, I believe, was the scout team player-of-the-year last year, he's a big guy. And this Akeem is super fast, you can see that in the 6 a.m. workouts. We're going to try to get the ball to him in space some this spring and see if he can't score a few touchdowns for us."

Gold and Black: Rob Henry has been around a while. Does the style which with he plays football fit within your system? If he turns out to be the guy who wins the job, could your system adapt to his skills?
"Yes. It's our system, I'll say that. This is a collection of a whole bunch of great coaches on our staff. But yeah, the thing that our system will emphasize is if you're accurate and you're intelligent, you can play the quarterback position in our offense. What we can't compromise is accuracy or intelligence. He's a wonderful athlete and a super-smart guy and pretty soon we're going to find out how accurate he is as soon as we're allowed to use footballs.

"I don't see any reason why he can't be a guy that separates himself. We're sure going to give him a chance to."

Gold and Black: Three of those scholarship guys are young - redshirt freshmen or freshmen - but you've played young guys at quarterback before in your career. They're capable of playing well.
"Sure. I've had to play with a rookie in the NFL before and had to play at North Carolina with a four-year starter in a man named T.J. Yates who is a wonderful player. I've got no inhibition about that. A freshman can sure do it; like I said, Johnny Manziel sort of shattered all those inhibitions."

Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson

Gold and Black: What is your general philosophy?
"I think toughness is a key element that you have to have obviously in football - it's pretty barbaric - or you won't survive. We will be a tough group, very physical, guys will play hard. We'll be fun to watch.

"They will tackle during the week. It's an occupational hazard; it's what we do and it's by choice. There's other options and other things you could be doing besides football, but the guys who chose to do it our way will be out there and they'll have fun and they'll have success."

Gold and Black: What have been your early impressions, from meeting players in the office to watching 6 a.m. workouts?
"Their effort has been great. Anytime as a coach you go places, you go for opportunities to move up and advance and then there's other reasons to go to places; it's to take over, to resurrect a program or change the culture and the kids are eager. They don't want to lose, they want to win and they want to be successful, so they're like sponges right now. They want to soak it all us and learn as much as they can as fast as they can.

"We've seen them run around a little bit in the morning workouts and those are pretty taxing. We're checking their oil pretty good and finding out really just who will compete and who will finish and sometimes who will quit."

Gold and Black: Describe your defensive scheme.
"We'll be a defense of attrition. We're going to defend and hopefully take away what offenses do best. But we also have to play a style of defense that fits our personnel. For me to call defenses or line up in schemes that these young men can't perform in would be ludicrous of me to do that. But some people do that, they say 'Here's the playbook, here's what we're going to do.' But we have enough in our book that's easy to learn that will match the talent level we have here.

"If you had to pick a number, we're a 4-3 defense that is zone friendly. We'll probably play some sneaky man on you. I'd blitz on every down, they're fun when they work. But we'll have enough chaos out there that we can create with blitzes and stuff, but it will be more about execution and discipline and pursuing the ball and lining up right. If it does have to do with talent, we're going to be great at it."

Gold and Black: Looking at your roster, you have a big defensive line, but perhaps smaller linebackers and defensive backs. Your thoughts?
"I sort of believe that there's weight classes in boxing for a reason, the bigger the better. But you have to be able to move in this game because of the offenses today with the spread. But you can still do that with big people. I like looking up to linebackers and D-linemen and I'm not as worried about DBs. Over at Iowa for a while, a pretty short guy named Bob Sanders was pretty good. He was real good.

"So you're height, weight and speed is important in our evaluation and you have to be able to defend and know how to defend based on the God-given size and ability that you have. And then it's my job also to put those players in the right position. You can't leave a short corner out there on a 6-foot-5 receiver all day. You have to help them. But sometimes those guys can be a pain in the rear to an offense too, because they'll tackle."

Gold and Black: What are your early goals for spring? I'd imagine installation of the scheme is primary.
"We've talked about that as a staff and one is to create an identity of who we are as a defense. The kids have to understand and develop an identity of something they can hang their hat on, so when that question is asked, they will have that answer. That's first.

"And then also, what type of role each kid will have. And learning about what type of responsibility is within that role at those positions. It will be basic. I try to keep it as basic as possible; I have to because I have to remember it (laughing) and I can't make it too complicated or I'll blow a gasket on Saturday. I put on top of the call sheet 'Don't screw this game up.' That's the first thing I do to make sure I don't create a problem before it happens.

"But these kids need to come out of spring football with an identity of who we are and what we want to accomplish."

Gold and Black: In the past, your defenses have been good at creating turnovers. It goes without saying that that is a goal.
"We like to shorten the game on defense. If we can get three turnovers, that's playing three quarters of football for us defensively and it's giving the offense a chance to play five. That's our sales pitch to the kids: Our job is to get the ball back for the offense. I don't know if there's any magic formula to creating turnovers, but it is an emphasis and it's something we'll work on and work on daily. I think it goes along with your scheme too. You can't get the ball back if you don't see it. We're trying to get as many eyes on it as we can at the snap."

Gold and Black: You've played and coached at national-caliber teams, like Notre Dame and Florida State. What does it take to get a program like Purdue to be able to compete nationally, or at the top of the Big Ten?
"First of all, great players. Every championship team has not good, but great players. Great talent and within that ability there has to be great chemistry and then there also has to be a great plan and involvement of everybody. You'll win championships when enough people care. You have to get the talent, but from the top to the bottom. To the student workers in the office, they all have to be on the same page and it doesn't change daily. You don't walk into work and wonder 'What are we working for today?' There's no gray area and I know when I walk into the office here at Purdue, I know exactly what our plan is. I know what is expected and it comes from great communication. I've been at places that didn't have it and you don't win. But make no mistake, you need great players, a great plan and a little luck helps too."

Gold and Black: You're back home in the Midwest, a move you wanted to make.
"I was very excited. It was awfully warm in the panhandle (at Florida State). The day I left it was 81. And my first recruiting trip it was minus-2 up in Chicago, but I was smiling the whole time. This is where really football in a sense started - it became popular here in the Midwest - and the Big Ten is a big ramrod in the development of college football and college athletics.

"To me, it's without a doubt the best conference for a student-athlete to be. I would argue that against anybody, with Cincinnati right down the road and the school up north across the street from St. Mary's that I went to."

Gold and Black: Is it easy to sell Purdue from that aspect, of being a good place for a student-athlete?
"It's an easy sell for me, because I was really pleased as a parent that my child wanted to come to a school like Purdue. I was comfortable with having a kid here. If I had to pick schools around the country, the schools within this league would be my first choice personally. I think you also see from a research standpoint, with the success of these universities, the type of atmosphere that these students are going to be involved in daily.

"When you cross the white line (on the field), it's not easy, but it's not easy when you go into those classrooms either; there's great competition in there with the type of students we attract from all over the world."

Gold and Black: What will it be like to coach Garrett (a freshman here in the fall)?
"It'll be rewarding, really good. There's a lot of college coaches out there who have children who go off and play sports and they never see them play. For me, it'll be great to have him there and not separate the family. That's the best part."

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