Q: With all the turnover you've had at defensive coordinator, have you considered being the defensive coordinator. If not, why not?
A: No, because I don't think it's in the best interest of the team. I think I can have enough of an impact doing the way we've done it to try to help whoever the defensive coordinator is. I think it's important for me to help, especially because we're still running the system that has basically come from Michigan State, Cleveland Browns…this system started in 1983 and I've been reluctant to change it and let somebody else do it.
Actually when I hired John Thompson, I was going to let him do his stuff and not (use the Michigan State defense) any more because if difficult to find people and you need to promote from within.
But I feel this transition this time has been easy because Will Muschamp has been a coordinator before. He's been in the system a year. He's a very bright guy and probably understood (the defense) as well as anybody. It's a lot easier on all of us not to be training the guy that's the leader to do what everybody else already knows. I feel OK about it.
But I think the offensive players and the other players on this team need the attention of the head coach as well. Even though I spend most of my time on the field helping the defense, I spent a lot of my time off the field with the offensive players – especially the quarterback – and I spend times in meetings with offensive players. It's not necessarily what they do but how they go about it…so that we have the right attitude and chemistry on our team. It's difficult to take on a responsibility.
I'll be honest with you. I was one of the last guys in the NFL to still coach a position and still be a coordinator – 1993 was my last year to do that… I finally said we're finally going to hire Rick Venturi to be the secondary coach, let him coach the secondary and I'll just walk around. We were better because of it because I had more time to spend with the other players on the defensive field.
I feel like if I would be the defensive coordinator that it would be really tough. I coach the defensive players – I don't root for them. I reinforce the offensive players for making good plays. I try to coach the defensive players but I'm not for them trying to win the drill. I'm not for them having success, I'm for us having success. And when we're doing it against our own guys, I want both guys to do it the right way. I think it's more difficult to do if you assume the responsibility and you can never walk away from it.
Just like when I had that secondary (as defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns), I could never leave that meeting room to see what Michael Dean was doing in the defensive line room. I could never leave. I was totally tied down with that.
That's not the case right now. I try to help with the secondary guys because it's an area where we've needed to improve as well as it's what I've coaches, so I try to help it as much as I can. Who knows?
Q: Is Will the best fit of the four defensive coordinators you've had?
A: I feel good about the staff that we have right now. …I feel good about Will being in the position and my ability to work with him. That doesn't mean that somebody else was bad; it just means that I feel good about this.
The hardest thing for me is when a guy's a coordinator and everybody else knows what's going on and you're trying to teach him. That's very difficult.
You put him in a position of leadership…in front of the players and in some cases, they know it better than he knows it. He's trying to learn it but everybody else around him knows it. That's a difficult position for anybody to be in, and it's a difficult position for me to be in…
Will learned (the defense) like an assistant coach, knows it philosophically isn't any different. Now he just steps right in and applies it. It's a lot easier and he's a bright guy.
Q: What's the latest with Nate Livings?
A: Nate Livings qualified and he's been cleared by the (NCAA) Clearinghouse.
Q: He can't practice?
A: He can't because when you late qualify, you can't start at mid-semester. He can only enroll in the fall.
Q: He can't enroll for the summer?
A: Only if he pays his own way or if he gets in a program that the institution has.
One of the other things we started here is a bridge program. It cost a lot of money. It's a university program for guys that scored less than 22 on the ACT so we can bridge them up to where they need to be to have success.If we didn't have academic integrity, why would we do that?