Craig Bray Interview

On his first day on the job, new CU DB coach <b>Craig Bray</b> was already at work tutoring possible future Buffaloes as the Colorado coaches were conducting their summer youth football camp. The Buffalo Sports News caught up with Bray to talk about his new role, what makes a good defensive back, and the sense of urgency he feels from the coaches to turn the CU defense into a strong unit.

Bray comes to Colorado with an impressive résumé, having coached at Washington State and Oregon State (where he was the defensive coordinator for three seasons from 2000-02.) Before that, he had stints at Northern Arizona, UNLV and Idaho. Last season, he was inside linebackers coach at Arizona under then-UA head coach Mike Hankwitz.

It was that relationship he developed with Hankwitz, who became CU defensive coordinator earlier this year, that helped lure him to Colorado.

Bray said on Wednesday, "I'm excited to be at Colorado, as the reputation of Gary Barnett and his staff is something that intrigued me to no end."

Buffalo Sports News: You said that Gary's reputation and the reputation of the staff intrigued you about this job. Tell me a little more about that.

Craig Bray: No. 1, they don't cheat, they don't break rules, they do everything right. I think Gary's ahead of his time in the disciplinary things that he does, the educational things that he does and the recruiting things that he's instituted – things that no one else I've worked for has done. It just speaks for itself.

It's just unfortunate that the nation doesn't know because of what they read or see on TV. But if you look at the guts of it, they did everything they could to prevent (the so-called recruiting scandal from the past few months).

I've known about him. I don't know him well, but I've known quite a few people who know him. I could never get a bad word (about Barnett).

And then having worked with Hank, it was just too good of a situation not to take.

BSN: You mentioned the way the media portrayed this thing the past few months. Could you kind of read between the lines and see what was really going on?

CB: I could, but I had communication with people that had a little bit more insight. But being a football coach and knowing what's going on around the country, and knowing that there are no guidelines — I knew that they actually have guidelines here.

(Some places) say, ‘Take this kid out and show him a good time.' And that's not the situation here. Gary's actually been ahead of the game.

BSN: What's your first order of business here?

CB: No. 1 is to get to know the players. And I've got to find a place to live and those types of things.

BSN: Do you have a feel for the players you'll be coaching yet?

CB: Not as people. I've seen a little bit of film. And, obviously, I know the system. So that will help. I ran a similar system when I was at Oregon State. So the knowledge of the packages isn't the problem. It's just getting to know the players and what each player can bring to the table.

BSN: Do you feel pretty comfortable that by August camp you'll have a good sense of what they can do from looking at film?

CB: To a certain degree. You never know how people work together, how kids react to the way that you coach. Because what I look for is maybe a little bit different than what somebody else does.

It's really going to take getting in to two-a-days.

BSN: What makes a really good defensive back?

CB: No. 1, they've got to have tremendous discipline, mentally. It's such a critical position, things change so fast back there. Obviously, the physical attributes are the things that you can't coach – the speed and the quickness. But they've got to have an inner competitive spirit without the fear.

A lot of times, defensive backs that don't turn out to be as good as their talent is because they don't have that confidence that you have to have to go make a play instead of worrying about trying to prevent one. It's a certain mentality.

BSN: The defense struggled last year. Is there a sense of urgency from the coaching staff to get better on that side of the ball?

CB: Absolutely. I think hiring Mike (Hankwitz) back here (points to that). You know when Mike was here last, they were very successful. And he's been very successful everywhere he's been. The only place he probably wasn't successful was where we had no chance to be successful, which was last year at Arizona. And so I think that speaks for itself.

Yeah, I think there's an urgency. There's an urgency for me, and an urgency for Mike, and for Brian (Cabral) and Chris (Wilson) too. In order for us to be at the level we want to be at, which is back to the championship game, we've got to play better defense. You don't get to that game in this conference without great defense.

BSN: You coached a lot in the Pac-10 which is a big passing conference.

CB: Yeah, big-time. And actually, I coached in the Big Sky, and the time that I was first in the Big Sky was when the passing game started out west. (In 1984) Dennis Erickson went to Idaho and the Big Sky became this wide-open throwing league. And we went from there to Wyoming, to the Pac-10. And it was night and day; it was like regular football again. You know, they lined up and ran the ball and play action-passed from simple formations.

Then the game evolved. I think it evolved out west and moved east, from the passing game standpoint. But I think I've got some background in what people do and why they try and do it. The multiple formations, the things that offenses can do to you now, it's really hard to be on defense.

BSN: In the Big 12, on the one hand you've got a team like Texas Tech who passes on nearly every down, and then, until this year, you had a team like Nebraska who ran the ball so well.

CB: And you've still got Kansas State. They're going rely on the run. Yeah, in the Pac-10 we didn't have that much variation. We might have had a team that was a little bit more run oriented, or a little bit more tight end oriented, but we didn't see the option. Washington fiddled with it, but nothing like what Kansas State does, or what Nebraska did.

So it's more of a challenge. I'm really excited because I've always wanted to coach in another top conference. And when I look at this conference, I don't know of any better.

BSN: Do you know yet where you'll recruit?

CB: I think it's going to be out west. We haven't even talked about it. I think there's a possibility I could fiddle around in the northwest. Or, obviously, in California.

But it doesn't matter to me. Just throw me in somewhere and I'll go and try to find them.

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