This is year one for BYU running backs coach Reno Mahe, who looks to the past to make the future of BYU’s running back position a bright one.
“You know I think the experience I had as a running back helps me in this situation as to how I would have liked to have been coached,” Coach Mahe said. “I take what I like from all the coaches I had and try to implement that as far as how I wish I was taught the game. Then I try to add all the things that I like from what I’ve learned over the years from different coaches that have taught me. A lot of times you get caught up in just teaching plays rather than teaching the whole game of football, such as what is your responsibility and how to execute it to the fullest.”
It appears Coach Mahe has taken the Ty Detmer approach to applying the coaching trade. Like Detmer, Mahe has been around various coaches with different coaching styles and philosophies, so he’s handpicked the best ideas and placed them in his bag of tricks.
“It’s hard to just pinpoint one person or coach who’s been the most influential,” said Coach Mahe. “Someone of my stature in regards to my frame, I had to us every bit from coaches that I received to help me excel in this game. There are so many little things that I learned that helped me as a player, so there are so many different coaches that helped me in my progression throughout my career. It’s hard to pinpoint just one because I learned so many things from so many different coaches, and I can recall one little thing that I use from all of them. So, for me it’s about taking the best ideas and tools to help me become the best coach I can be for the players.”
While playing for Andy Reid, when he was the head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, Mahe recalls a time when he had a personal conversation with his running backs coach concerning the occupation of coaching.
“I remember asking my coach back when I played in Philadelphia, ‘What’s it like to be a coach?’” Mahe recalled with a grin on his face. “He said, ‘It’s plain and simple. If you have players, coaching is easy. If you don’t have players, coaching is hard.’ I mean, that’s the reality of it.”
Since that time Coach Mahe realized that much of coaching comes down to talent. Kalani Sitake understood this very principle when he built a football staff that could do one thing and one thing well. That is recruit talented players.
“It goes to what Kalani preaches with regards to us coaches when he said, ‘Players come first.’ At the end of the day the players are our highest priority and we want to take care of our players. The players come out and they play for you, and when they are successful they make you look good. You then become a good coach.”
Mahe believes great players make good coaches look even better, but he also believes that good coaches are the ones that can bring out what players have within.
“You know I think for me, and this is just my own opinion, you’ll have great players that make bad coaches look good,” said Mahe with a laugh. “I mean, can you tell me of a place where they had bad players and a coach came in and made them good? What I’ll tell you is, ‘They had good players and it was the coach who helped them find what they had.’ Fortunately for me, I have good players so they’re going to make me look good. However, if my players don’t perform well it’s a reflection on me.”
To help bring out the best in his players, Coach Mahe believes there needs to be a culture established to help foster the philosophy of the coaching staff. Building the right mentality and adding expectations to talent is a key ingredient.
“I definitely think there is a culture that some coaches create,” Mahe said. “You take the Patriots and they have a culture. You take Andy Reid and he’s always had a good program wherever he goes because he creates a good culture. There’s a culture that Kalani is creating and I think the players are buying in and in due time I think it will pay off.”
However, there is a balance between just having great players. It’s up to the coaches to bring out their talents while increasing the player’s I.Q. This means a coach must know a few things and how to transfer the knowledge in a way in which his players can grasp the concepts and apply them effectively on the field. To ensure he could be that conduit by which information flows, Mahe attended many coaching camps over the summer.
“This past summer I did a couple camps and the running back coach from Michigan, Coach Wheatley, used to be a big running back for Michigan when he played gave me some good advice,” said Mahe. “He said that we as coaches throw all this stuff at players and not every player is at the same level as one another. I have a lot of kids and when you’re little, you give them baby food. Then when they get a little older you take them to Chuck-A-Rama. You give them little by little until it’s time to unleash the buffet on them.”
As Coach Mahe gets his feet wet as a college coach at BYU, the good news for Mahe is he has many horses in the stable that can run.
“It’s his last year and he’s a seasoned vet,” said Mahe of BYU senior running back Jamaal Williams. “The guy runs with so much emotion and he’s had great years. I think he’s just going to add onto his legacy here. We have Jamaal and we have Algie Brown and he’s a 255-pound wrecking ball. He’s just that Polynesian coconut head who runs well and is tough. [We also] have Squally Canada, Trey Dye, Riley Burt and others. It’s going to be nice to have a group a guys that I can call upon and they can go out and perform well.”