AState Athletics

Interview with Maryland Terrapins offensive coordinator Walt Bell who leaves Arkansas State

Interview with now former AState offensive coordinator Walt Bell

Bowl season can be fun for football fans.  The other part of this season that is unpredictable is the coaching carousel season.  Hours before the New Orleans Bowl it became known that Walt Bell was being named the new offensive coordinator at the University of Maryland.  AStateNation had a chance to speak with Coach Bell about his decision and his time in Jonesboro.

When did this situation present itself? – “It happened really fast actually.  I got a message from Larry(Fedora) that Coach Durkin would be calling me and ten minutes later he called.  That was Tuesday night last week.  He came down on Thursday morning in New Orleans and we spent some time meeting and getting to know each other.  I still wasn’t sure at that point what I wanted to do.  I ended up making my mind up around Friday night at 11:30pm.  Just really felt like it’s a good fit for me right now.”

Why was this the right move for you to make? – “I felt it was a great opportunity and a great league with a young, up-and-coming head coach.  When I started to see the staff of guys Coach Durkin was putting together I was interested in being a part of that.  The quality of guys and the quality of recruiters is incredible.  That’s what sold me on what he is planning on getting done there.  I mean, you’ve got Coach London who has dominated the Tidewater area of Virginia in recruiting.  You’ve got Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, who knows the DC area and Maryland very well.  Then add in Coach Durkin and Coach Shafer.  If you’re ever going to win at Maryland at the level we want to win you have to win in recruiting those areas and we have the guys that can do that.  I just felt like if it’s ever going to happen at Maryland, this is going to be the guy to do it and I wanted to be a part of it.  It’s a great opportunity and Coach Durkin is a great guy.  Obviously I haven’t seen what he’s like when I go 0-8 on third downs and only score 10 points(laughing), but I really like what I’ve seen of him so far.  He’s a young guy with a great pedigree, having worked with Coach Harbaugh, Coach Meyer, and Coach Muschamp.   There are 4 head coaches there right now so I get to be Luke Skywalker; and instead of learning from 1 Yoda, I’ll be learning from 4 Yodas.”

Was it a hard decision to make? – “It was hard because of my relationship with Blake, no question about it.  Then my brother and best friend on the planet as well in Luke and Glen.  In my heart, if I was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys I would want Glen there with me because I think he’s the best offensive line coach in the country.  I’ve been around great OL guys and I think he’s better than all of them.  And I know there’s nobody better outside the hash marks than my brother Luke.  The way he gets those guys to play physical and play smart is unmatched.  That’s my right hand and my left hand right there.  So going to Maryland without them is a big risk professionally in addition to how hard it will be personally.  So yes, it’s the relationships that made this hard.  That includes the players too.  Guys like James Tabary, who I think is a special player and he’s going to be great.  So to miss out on that experience of seeing him reach those heights is tough.  Then there are the people of Jonesboro.  They’ve been incredible to me from the way they treated us to the way they supported the program.  Personally, it’s not an easy decision.  Professionally, Coach Durkin’s energy and vision is infectious and that’s what drew me in to this opportunity.  I love the challenge.  It’s a place where people don’t think you can win at a high level.  I like going to do what people say I can’t do.  We all know why we’re there and that’s because it’s going to be a big challenge.  There is work to be done.  It will be good professionally for me to keep learning from new people.  I’ve learned from two great head coaches so far that were similar, so I felt like stepping out of my comfort zone was important and to see how a different guy runs a program.  I’ve still got a lot of growing to do and learning in order to reach my goals as a coach and this will help me do that.”

Was it hard to tell your players? – “I really wanted to be able to tell my guys.  I didn’t want them to find out from anybody from me.  I wasn’t trying to hide anything from them but really just wanted to protect them and keep our focus on the game.  But it leaked somehow so I wanted to tell them the truth.  I just really hate that it got out on the internet.  I wanted it to be from me.  I’ve always promised them the truth, so I got them together and told them what was going on.  We had a nice big cry session and talked.  I wanted them to understand the how and the why.  They deserved to hear it from me.”

What was the game like for you? – “The thing I care about most is my guys.  The only thing I cared about was putting them in position to win.  All of our preparation was really done before we left for New Orleans.  We didn’t change anything and the way I call the game didn’t change.  We just ran out of guys in the end.  We had guys played hurt, guys playing when others wouldn’t in the same situation.  But we tried to find a way to win and we fought hard.  We struggled at pass protection and didn’t match up well in certain situations.  Coming out of the half we just couldn’t get things going and put it together.  Mistakes killed us and we didn’t execute.  That’s on me.  But I was proud of our guys and the fight in them.”

What was the locker room like after the game? – “It was a somber place.  We didn’t want to lose the game and it’s always hard when your season ends.  Some of the emotion was about me leaving and I hated that.  I was focused on those seniors playing their last game.  Seeing guys like Tres Houston and Fredi Knighten saying goodbye to their teammates is tough.  Seeing guys realize that was the last time they would be doing what they love to do.  It’s always tough.  The good thing about coaching is you get to be a part of this for the rest of your life.  Just being a part of something bigger than yourself every year in this profession.  Win or lose we were going to be crying with the goodbyes; the only difference was whether it would be tears through a smile or not.”

What has your time in Jonesboro meant to you? – “I got a chance to coach with Blake and my brother.  When Blake got the job for his first head coaching gig, I was going no matter what.  I was not going to let Blake, Luke and also Glen go into that situation with anybody else in that spot other than myself.  If we were going to fail, it was going to be because we didn’t get it done, not just them.  I wanted to be a part of Blake’s success.  I wanted to be a part of Luke and Glen’s success.  I felt like I was the guy for that job and I wasn’t going to let those guys go without me.  That coaching room was a group of guys I’ve never enjoyed being around more.  Just a solid group of individuals who put egos aside and worked together to do things we hadn’t done before.  We just worked hard together to make it work and it was fun.  A lot of things we did together on a daily basis that people on the outside will never notice.  And we had fun doing it.”

What would you like to say to the Red Wolves’ fans? – “Thank you for allowing me to be a part of something special in Jonesboro.  I don’t think the rest of college football understands what a special place AState is and the bright future I strongly believe is out there for this program.  Some day that place will be the best G5 school in the country.  Between the Terry, and the administration, the community, and the people in that building, it’s a place that people around the country will know and never forget from year to year.  People there just want it more and give more than they have to make it a special place.  From the little guy to the guy at the top, they’re all in and that’s unique.  I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

How would you compare the Coach Bell that arrived in Jonesboro two years ago to the one arriving in College Park today? – “Much improved due to the learning I’ve experienced from Blake and the guys on this staff.  I’m a fiery guy and struggle with patience at times.  I think I’m better now at being whatever I need to be for the guys in that locker room than I was before.  I’m more organized, and more efficient.  I still work too many hours I guess, but I’ve learned how to even get more done in those hours through being more efficient.  I’ve told my guys that the only way to get better at something is through repetition, and that’s not just in playing but in coaching too.  Am I coming to work every day and being the best me I can be to help the program?  Every year the goal is for me to be better than I was last season.  I think we were this year and I want to be next year too.  Every season is like a lifetime in itself.  It starts over every year but the learning from year to year doesn’t stop.”

Looking ahead, what do you know about Maryland football? – “I’m really more looking forward for Maryland than where it’s been.  Coach Durkin laid out a plan to me and that’s what I’m excited about most.  I’m excited to try and create a special offense there which is not something they’ve ever had consistently.  I want to be able to look back and know we were part of something special.  Be a part of changing history there.  They’re located in a great pool of recruiting talent.  The league they’re in is just steeped in football tradition.  One of those leagues you grow up watching.  And man, Paul Bryant coached at Maryland.  I’m coaching at the same place that Paul Bryant coached at and that’s just a cool deal to me.”

Will you be running the same offense? – “Offensively this doesn’t change a thing.  We’re going to do what we’re going to do and have been doing.  Coach Durkin has been very supportive of that vision.  He wants that here in his plan.  It’s part of how he sees us turning this program into a success story.  None of us have really coached in the Big 10 so I’m excited to take what we do and do that in that conference.  Nobody plays like we play in that conference.  It will take some time to get the talent to where we need it, but the challenge and adventure to being unique in that league is intriguing to me.”

Have you had a chance to look at the roster? – “I spent 36 hours there immediately after the bowl game and started analyzing that.  I had to see what we have, we don’t have, and if it’s even going to be fixed with the current class.  A lot of it can’t happen until I meet the guys and start taking inventory of leadership and talent and what fits into what we do and what we’ll have to refit into who’s on the roster.  When we get back from this break we’ll get after it all the way through signing day and figure out where we stand.”

How will the offensive staff be assembled? – “Right now I know Coach Durkin has a plan.  So whatever he wants to do along those lines is fine with me.  I can work with whoever is in that room and I know I can bring them up to speed and also learn from them and see what we can incorporate into our plan.  Whatever Coach Durkin wants to do is what we will do.”

What type of coach can Maryland fans expect to get from you? – “A guy that puts his whole heart and soul into what he does.  I know that the end result is what they will see.  But the process of affecting these kids in a positive way is what matters.  Making them better people and better players is what I will do in this position.  I want them to be the best they can be.  If we can be the best “us” we can be then eventually the results will take care of themselves.  I’ll bring a lot of energy, both mental energy and physical energy.  I want these kids to develop on the field and when it’s over know that they’ll be better people in their lives off the field.  Better husbands, better fathers, and better employees that will know what it’s like to go through adversity and come out on top in the end.  I’ll be honest and truthful in everything I do and just give this program my all.”

What are your emotions like right now? – “My Father told me that every decision you make will be emotional.  There will be emotional waves that will give you ups and downs.  But what you do with those choices is what will matter.  So it will really be what you make of your choices and I’m ready to make this the best decision I could have made.  If we work hard and do what we’re supposed to do it will be the right choice.  That’s on me.”

AStateNation would like to thank Coach Bell for his time with us, his time with the Red Wolves’ program, and wish him luck at Maryland.