There is a long chronology to how all this happened, and the bottom line is that there just came a time when I wanted to make a change into college football. I did a lot of research when Chuck contacted me, because I was not familiar with any aspect of college football, having been so focused on professional football. In my research, I found that North Carolina State had one of the most respected coaches, programs, administrations, athletic directors in Lee Fowler, David Horning … It's a first-class operation that is highly respected by college coaches and professional coaches around the country. Those that are very familiar with college football, in all aspects, highly, highly recommended North Carolina State as a program. I've gotten to know them and want very much to be a part of what they're trying to accomplish. And they made my family and I very, very comfortable.
Can you touch on your offensive philosophies?
The philosophy I've always used is defining the abilities of players around you, then putting them in a position to have success. Most places that I've been, we haven't had a premier running back who could pound like a Stephen Davis or [LaDainian] Tomlinson or a Ricky Williams, those types of running backs. I've been blessed with some very good backs, but more multiple backs, and I've tried to use them in that capacity.
Then, defining what your quarterback can do, what you can do up front, evaluating those people and being flexible enough to put them in position to win. Whether that means throwing the ball or running the ball, whatever it takes to move the football and score, that's your job as coordinator.
What have you learned in the NFL that will help you the most in college?
That's a loaded question. I've been very blessed to have worked with some very, very fine head coaches and tremendous assistants, and it's been an unbelievable adventure for my family and I for the last 15 or 17 years in the NFL. I've had to the chance to work with some great players. You get to find out who you are and what you're about, both as a person and a coach.
Like I told Coach Amato, I have a lot of things to learn about the college game, so I'll go to work right away and adapt to the game as quickly as I can.
What went into your decision to return to the college game?
It's really two-fold. I've had the opportunity to work with some great players, and I'll try to utilize my ability to coach some young guys and make a difference in their lives, and I think I can do that. And also, NC State has one of the most highly respected coaches out there. He's done an unbelievable job and they're talking about him all over the country.
Lee Fowler has helped put that all together, and they've teamed up to do something and they've just begun to scratch the surface. So it's really three-fold: the combination to coach at the highest level at a place with the resources necessary to build top-20 program; also, the opportunity to coach young kids; and No. 3 is – and this was as big a part of it [as anything] – an unbelievable community to grow and raise a family. And there's tremendous fan support.
So the formula was there for me, and it was a no-brainer from the standpoint of doing this. The tough part is that, as a coach in the NFL, it becomes a part of your way of life; your energy and biorhythms are structured to do things a certain way. But my wife and family wanted to try to make a change, and this was best for the family. Chuck and Lee Fowler provided us with that opportunity, and we want to make the most of it on every level.
Will you be using the West Coast offense at NC State?
That's the philosophy I was really raised on … I was out of football for three years before I went to the 49ers, and that's where [I learned] the foundation of the philosophy of football, the structure, the terminology, the system that I have used as a coordinator since then. You start with that foundation and work with the players and quarterbacks we have to try to implement it to best utilize their abilities.
What do you see as the biggest differences you'll have to adjust to from the NFL to college?
Just real basic differences, like the dimensions of the field are different, with hashmarks and numbers. How the system is coordinated with splits, alignments, the hashmarks are wider, the numbers are changed, the way the dimensions are, inside the lines … I'll get on that right away and make those changes. Football is fundamentals, and the most important thing that we understand as football coaches is that doesn't change at any level.
What will be the biggest difference for you in coaching younger players?
That's a good question, and if I could backtrack on the last question, I'll have to come to terms with the time constraints of college football. That'll be big. [In the NFL] we had the players for eight or nine hours a day at our facility, and that will change the way you have to coach and manage your time. I don't think I'll be coaching them any differently than 28- or 29-year-olds that I've coached over the years, and all [ages] in between. It's still the same, and I can't believe its any different in terms of fundamentals, drops, reads, progressions. It's about how you change and are adaptable in that regard.
But that's the least of my concerns, that I'm going to coach them differently; I'm not. I'm going to teach them exactly the same way that I taught the 49er offense and the Raiders … We're going to work hard on the fundamentals and use a system that will take advantage of the abilities that we have.
What is the process of getting your system implemented?
The No. 1 thing is to go in and start with the staff and get everybody caught up as quickly as possible. We'll have a month before spring practice and we have an experienced staff, so it will be a smooth transition as far as getting everybody on the same page with the terminology and system. They're very good at handling transition and they're a flexible group of guys, so I'm encouraged and excited. We'll be developing the playbook that we'll use, but the principles of offense, a lot of them are universal. We want the terminology to be consistent so there's not overlap from year to year.
What do you know about NC State's personnel and how do you go about familiarizing yourself with the talent on hand?
I've met Coach Amato and some of the assistant; some are out recruiting. But I've gotten some idea and had a chance to say hello to a couple passing through. I'll get an idea from them of the quality of players that we have at different positions, and that's the starting point.
Next week they start conditioning, so I'll get a chance to watch them work and run and lift, and get to know them a little bit. I'm excited about that. I'll have three or four weeks to get a sense for the type and ability of athletes we have. I'll watch tape of the last year or two. Anytime [you come into a new program], you get on the tape as soon as we can to familiarize ourselves with them on a physical level, with what they can do, and a personal level.
There is still an opening for another offensive assistant. Will you have a role in finding someone to fill that spot?
We haven't had a chance to really go there yet, and that'll be how Coach wants to take it. I'm sure we'll talk about it over the next few days, and I'll leave it at that.
How will you adjust to getting back on the recruiting trails?
I'm going to do whatever Coach Amato asks me to do in that regard, to get best players here that we possibly can.
What position will you be coaching?
Have you worked with any other coaches on the staff before?
"I don't know any of them. I've met the guys that have been around – some are out recruiting – so I've met a few members of the staff, but I've never had any relationship with them on a professional level.
When were you first contacted by Chuck Amato?
My ability to put time and days is a little tough, but it's gone on for a few weeks, anyways. He can probably reiterate that as well.