Down to his fifth string running back last year, he and the coaches decided to change their entire offensive philosophy and literally throw caution to the wind.
What resulted was a first team all conference quarterback, a season that defied explanation and one of the best coaching jobs in America last year and one of the best in school history, our opinion.
O'Keefe starts fall camp with a complete arsenal of weapons; the running backs are healthy, he has a deep and talented group of pass catchers and an offensive line that has oodles of experience.
What are your biggest concerns on offense?
Ken O'Keefe: Making sure that we play together, that is one of the things that we want to make sure that we do all of the time. I would not say they are concerns as much as they are things we want to improve upon.
One of the things is that we want to be able to run the football better than we did a year ago. That is a combination of several things.
The other thing we would like to do is attack more and be more successful in the redzone in terms of touchdowns. We have to focus on those things. As we enter preseason, this is not any different than it has ever been; guys are working hard to master the system. You have fifth year guys that know it and they can help teach other guys in some ways. Then you have first and second year guys that do not have experience that you have to really ramp them up to make sure they know what they are doing out there. That is all a part of what preseason is.
The fact that we have five single practices before we go into doubles gives us some great meeting time to help install the system and use the practices to rep out what we need to do on offense. Those practices give us a great opportunity to build on the fundamentals we are trying to master on the field.
Drew Tate had a great year last year; where can he improve?
Ken O'Keefe: He needs to take care of the football. We think we can improve there, especially at quarterback. When a ball goes on the ground, there is about a 50% chance you might be able to get it back. When a ball is thrown in the air and intercepted, there is almost a 100 percent chance that you are not getting it back. We want to make sure we take care of that ball. That means making better decisions, not guessing what the coverage might be, not forcing the ball with our arm…use your feet to get into a better situation.
How do the running backs look at this point?
Ken O'Keefe: All the guys that had been hurt a year ago are looking pretty darn good. You can never tell how they would look, but Marcus Schnoor looks like his old self and Albert Young does as well. We have not hit anyone yet, and that will be the part that tells it all. They are running through the drills pretty well and Carl has them doing the stuff they were doing before they got hurt.
It appears that you have solid depth on the offensive line?
Ken O'Keefe: It looks like we have a chance there. It never seems like you have enough depth there, but we do have a lot of guys that have played and started during their career, and certainly having a start or two under your belt makes a difference when you are thrown in to the fire. We are excited about that and we want to take advantage of that and build on it. We will see where the next few weeks takes us.
Do you feel this team is capable of putting a lot of points on the board?
Ken O'Keefe: All we want to do is make sure that we are moving the ball on first downs, doing the things we need to do, take advantage of the big plays when they are there and the points will come.
How has Eric McCollom responded to the position change (quarterback to receiver)?
Ken O'Keefe: Very good. He has a tremendous set of hands, as smooth as we have and as natural as we have. (Wide Receiver coach) Lester Erb has done a great job with running routes since we made the position move last year. He has come along quite a bit there. He has not been tested under fire yet as far as having to block and dig out some safety, so he has some work there. But he knows the system having been a quarterback, and he will have a chance to add to what we have there
Is Herb Grigsby ready to compete?
Ken O'Keefe: We think he is. He had a good spring, he has had a good couple days of practice here and he is doing all of the things he needs to do right now to compete for a position and playing time. He just needs to stay focused on improving and getting better each day.