Coaches Corner: Interview with Nate Kaczor, Part 1

<u>EDITOR'S NOTE:</u> A couple weeks ago Idaho Co-Offensive Coordinator <b>Nate Kaczor</b> sat down for an exclusive interview with Pat Hauge of In this first of a 2 Part interview, Nate discusses his system, player development, and a brief note on recruiting.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview with Nate occurred the week following the Idaho - BSU game. Hence, this is the reason for references to that particular game, and none others. Given the events of last week, and scheduling conflicts the week prior, this report is now appearing on this site.

Many thanks to Nate for taking some time out of his incredibly busy schedule right now to talk with us. We all appreciate his time, and his very candid answers.


1) We have something that is pretty unique this year: 2 Offensive Coordinators. Which one of you two will be calling the plays? If both of you will, how will it be determined who calls what and when?

In general, college offensive staffs will design an offensive game plan, and all the game plans are categorically designed. In other words, third and short, third and medium, normal down and distance, last play of the game. You cover every scenario. The staff chooses a menu of plays, based on science, that gives you the best chance to succeed. The words technically come out of my mouth, so you could say that I "call the plays". But we all work at it together, and Coach Holt provides some oversight on what he feels like. Not the particular call, but the type of game plan that we need to design, so it's really a team effort. Therefore, calling the plays…it comes out of my mouth, like I said, but we're all in it together.

2) Can you describe your system and compare it to the offense Idaho ran the past 4 years. How will your offense differ from what we've seen recently at Idaho?

Our offensive system, at first glance, requires us to play to the strengths of the players we have this year. From a philosophical standpoint, as Coach Holt has stated, we want to be balanced. We want to be good running the football, and obviously equally adept at throwing the football. Against Boise State you saw us in some empty, no-back formations. You saw us in some traditional 1-back, 1-tightend, 3-wide formations which have been, in the past, a staple of the University of Idaho. You also saw some 2 "back-ish", I'll call them….they're actually tightends, but are still some traditional 2-back formations. You can produce a more diverse running attack by using those types of formations. We really want to be multiple, and we really want to be good at what we do. Obviously, we need to keep improving in those areas. But in general, that would be our philosophy.

3) We've heard a lot about Idaho's need to improve its speed. What can you do to put our young men in a position to be successful?

Going into the season, we knew how fast our players were against the clock. Some guys that clock at 4.7 play at great game speed. The first time we had a chance to see our "true" speed, live and in person, was against Boise State, who has excellent team speed for a mid-major. Not taking anything away from them by calling them a "mid-major", but for a non-BCS team those guys run really well. And we do need to recruit and develop more speed. It's hard when you're not real fast to get guys open. Using rub routes, shorter passes, and crossing routes and things like that are what we're going to have to do until we can develop or bring in a young man who can run really fast. A lot of people win a lot of games and don't have a "game breaker" speed-wise, so we just need to design plays to help our guys succeed.


1) How are our receivers coming along, as far as becoming more confident in catching the ball? What are you doing to help this unit develop their receiving skills?

We're trying to help them become technically sound. We have some fundamental drills that we've done, over the years. We've all coached at different places, but we've all worked for similar background people. So fundamentally trying to improve their catching ability, turning their hands over, when to turn your hands over, when not to, when to high-point the ball, different types of catches, we drill them all really hard. Obviously, accurate throwing really helps. But we're trying to get underneath these guys to help them become confident and really show them that we believe in their abilities. For instance, when you drop a ball, managing how everyone reacts to it. Obviously it's not a good thing, but I think when everyone gets down on you and points fingers, we all know that negative momentum doesn't help anybody. So we need to try to minimize the negative momentum, help with the fundamentals of catching the football, and then, again, to put it in the best spot we can at quarterback to help them catch it.

The drops in the Boise game would have been great catches. On one play Jimmy Labita ran a GREAT double move route, he's 5 yards behind the corner. The pass was a little behind him and he "could" have caught it, but it wasn't a pass that bounced off his face mask. I thought those guys did a decent job in the Boise game.

2) What can Harrington do to help the receivers? Is he delivering the ball where our receivers can do something after the catch? Simultaneously, do you think your scheme will help our receivers get more open, more often?

It's our job as offensive coaches to put our receivers in a position to be open. Its Mike's job and our job as offensive coaches to design plays that may help him make quick decisions so he can accurately throw the ball. Completing balls is about chemistry. If a quarterback has time, then he can have confidence. He can set his feet which is a fundamental of throwing. Throwing from a stationary position with your feet set, being able to set-and-transfer your weight really helps your accuracy. It's easier to catch an accurate ball. So, the chemistry of the whole offense, in terms of the protection, and maybe moving Michael around a little bit to help him make good decisions, helps him be confident in his throwing.

3) What will it take from the runningbacks we have on the team today to first earn a starting job, and second excel at the position? What are you looking for in a runningback to effectively execute the one-back, spread offense?

Someone that can make a 71 yard run.

The thing about our offense is that when we run the zone play, the back needs to be big enough to account for not having a lead blocker in front of him. So he needs to be big enough that when he makes the cut he's probably going to have to bounce off or run through a second level defender. Now, you can never block everyone, even if you're in a 3-back formation. So, we like size. Several of our runs, like the one Bird scored on, are stretch plays where we pull multiple people. Really, that's like a 2-back run because the back has lead blockers in front of him. So he has to understand how to set up blocks on the perimeter, be it from a linemen, or an H-back, or a tightend. So they need to have some size to run inside and be adequate setting up blocks. And, obviously, speed helps. Ideally you want all 3, but I'd say physical running and protection, the ability to cut and have vision, and then speed. As much speed as we can get with those other 2 qualities would be important. You know, Sheridan May types. Joel Thomas types. Not that Willie Alderson and Jerome Thomas, who I coached against, weren't really good too. But if you can, protection wise, it's nice to have a 200+ type kid. The smaller you are, the harder it is to protect. If we're going to throw the ball like we plan on doing in the future, whenever the future may be, our backs have to be able to protect.

4) What do you think about the offensive line? Under the prior staff, size seemed to be everything. Your staff seems to be a bit more focused on speed. Is that true with the O-linemen as well?

Our offensive line...We have some older kids who have a chance to be some really good players, they just aren't healthy. VanderPol and Hank, for our level of football, if they're playing healthy and well, they probably should be way above average. As far as size, we pull a fair amount. Obviously, the more athletic you are in pass protection, it really helps. But you still need size. We'd like our inside players to be 6-3 to 6-4, and probably around 300 pounds. And we'd like our tackles to be around 6-5, 6-7, and 300 pounds or a little better, but ATHLETIC. We want our linemen to be as athletic as possible and still have some size.


1) Were you pleased with the Vandal Football Camp this summer? Were many of the prospects you are recruiting able to make it to this camp?

I guess for getting a late start, being a new staff, it was average. We know it will really improve. We have some verbal commitments out of people, not recruits, but people that will come to the camp that weren't able to come last year. Nick and Jeff Mills were here before when it was HUGE! That's our vision, to do whatever we have to do, turn over every rock, get in every school. That camp is SO important to us and to our image in the northwest. We have to get that thing built back up.

The kids had a great time this year. That's something that's really important to Nick.

To answer the second part of your question, there were some kids at our summer camps that we're definitely recruiting right now actively…no question…several.

2) How many D-1 prospects do you think the state of Idaho has this year? Is there a particular state or area where Idaho has focused its recruiting effort this year?

Nick has stated this publicly, and this is what we're going to do. We're going to put a huge focus on the region within about a 6 hour radius of Moscow. Which would include Portland, Seattle, the whole state of Washington, the whole state of Oregon, Idaho, up into Canada, Alaska, any of those regions in the northwest. That is where we really want to pick up the recruiting efforts, with some influence from California due to our connections in California. When I was at Utah State recruiting California, Nick recruited down there for Idaho. Mills has recruited down there. Thomas has relatives down there. Most of the California areas are secondary areas, but we have a couple guys down there full time. You're going to see some California influence just because they have so many kids down there, and obviously some good speed. But the northwest is our home base, and obviously California is important as well.

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