When you get the opportunity to speak with Thom McDaniels, head coach at Warren Harding High School, you buckle your chin strap because he hits you head on. At least he laughed when he said, "I grew up in the Woody and Bo era of coaching. You know that Coach Tressel and I went to the same school: the ‘Old School.'"
He tells it like it is. Or at least how he sees it.
So Coach, how do you see Alex Engram working out?
"We had two good quarterbacks before he got here, and I was pleased with both of them," he said. "Alex is going to have to work hard if he wants to play at Warren Harding. We don't pat you on the butt. It's a shock to the system. He's got six months to make it work and I don't know if he can do that or not."
Is Delbert Ferguson in the same situation?
"Absolutely. He's been pampered in the past and he won't be pampered here. Neither Alex nor Delbert are ‘Warren Harding kids.' This is a different program. We were real good without those kids and we'll be real good with or without them. The transition has been difficult and they are still struggling."
But Coach, Delbert Ferguson is one of the best backs in the state.
"I have a tailback who rushed for 1400 yards last year," he said. "Delbert is going to have to work hard to play here."
Is he working out with his teammates yet?
"There can't be any coaching, but we work five days a week in our own ‘spring practice.' There's strength training and the guys get together to throw the ball around".
What do you notice from the "throwing the ball around"? The coach didn't hesitate to answer.
"Delbert is not a natural at catching the ball. He really needs to work on his hands. He has a reputation for not being careful with the ball. He needs to be more careful and work on ball security."
Any other perceived weaknesses?
"He runs a little upright. But we can work on that."
Is there a way to work on the hands problem?
"Absolutely. We run hundreds of different drills. If he wants to work hard and improve his concentration, we'll work on that, too."
How about Ferguson's strengths?
"He's very physical with great second effort. He doesn't go down easily. He's a kid I really want to coach."
How will the transition be coming out of the Ursuline program and moving to Harding?
"Look, I'm not an elitist. I coached at the small school level at Orrville. But you can't compare that to Division I football. And you can't compare what's going on at Ursuline to the Warren Harding program. We've gotten to play Ursuline and Delbert the past three years. We lost to them three years ago (the season that Ursuline won the state championship) 15-12, when I held out Maurice Clarett for disciplinary reasons. We whipped them pretty good the last two years. I remember Delbert two years ago – we had them down big and he was the only kid on Ursuline who continued to compete."
What kind of relationship does Clarett have with Delbert Ferguson?
"They've known each other since grade school. When Delbert went down to visit Ohio State last week, he went to dinner with Clarett. He got on Delbert for his lack of work ethic and his focus."
And how is OSU looking at Delbert?
"They know who he is. They've stayed in touch. Once recruiting calls can be made again in May, we'll see what they say. Delbert has offers already from Miami of Ohio and one other".
We plan to interview Delbert next week on the Bucknuts Radio Hour. Perhaps we can get his vision of his playing career at Warren Harding. We certainly understand Coach McDaniel's vision.
He made it very clear.