Hayes discusses tight ends, special teams

Tight End/Special Teams Coach Jonathan Hayes talks about the Sooners' tight ends, new offense and special teams

JH: You have a great corp of tight ends to work with including an All-American in Trent Smith, but that's not all you have to work with. Talk about your other talented tight ends.

Hayes: I'm really happy with the progress that my guys have made. Trent has some talent, but the thing about Trent is he wants to be good. He works at it and he comes out and studies the game. To have a guy like that, who is so enthusiastic about the game, makes my job a lot easier.

And then you have a guy like Lance Donley, who is just a true blue collar guy that is kind of the type of guy I was. He just loves to work at it. There's nothing he won't do to help his team succeed whether it's special teams or blocking. Whatever it might be, there's nothing he won't do for this football team.

I have two young guys that have some talent you got to see a little of this spring in James Moses and Chris Chester. I think James is a little further ahead of Chris just because James played tight end in high school and has a better understanding of what it takes to play the position.

The one thing Chris does have is he's big, he's strong, and he's fast. He's started to get an understanding of what we ask of our tight ends and what it takes to be successful in our system. He had a good spring. Needless to say, he needs to grow this summer, and so does James and the other two. But these two really need to step up and they're going to also be playing on some special teams, which helps them get some experience.

JH: You take special teams very serious at Oklahoma. Tell us about you philosophy when you put together the players that make up the special teams.

Hayes: Special teams is not something that we take for granted around here. If you play on special teams that is just as important as being a starter on the offense or defense. We put a huge emphasis on our special teams, that's why we've had success. We're trying to build and grow and create more ways to make big plays on our special teams, and our guys understand that.

When you have a guys like a Roy Williams or a Rocky Calmus and Trent Smith — guys who have been starters and play 60-70 snaps a game, but yet they're out there on special teams, it shows the other guys how important and serious we take it. We take our special teams very seriously and want them to execute at a very high level, just like the offense or defense.

JH: How will the adjusted offense change the role your tight ends play in the offense?

Hayes: I think people are putting it like we did a total remake of our offense, we really haven't. We've tweaked it and changed the split on the offensive line, but we've changed the split on the offensive line, and no disrespect to Mark (Mangino), after he left and Bob named me interim offensive line coach.

I talked to Chuck (Long) and we agreed upon it and made that change for the bowl game. Then, when Kevin (Wilson) came we just kept it that way. We had all talked about it and added a little flavor, but we've kept our passing game and most of our runs. Some of the things we've added are going to be excellent. Not just in the run game, but it's going to help our tight ends be more effective. The key is just making sure we're an effective offense — that we can go out and attack people, get the ball north and south and not have the defense string out plays against us for losses. We're trying to create third-and-five or third-and-four to keep the defense guessing.

We've added some things that we needed to have to solidify our offense and make it more solid, and also to give our guys a chance. We're going to have to throw the ball downtown seven times in a game, not only to keep a defense honest, but we had success in our national championship year doing that. We just have to get back to it and make our quarterbacks see that they're going to have to take a shot here and there so we can have a chance to spread the defense and have an underneath and intermediate passing game.

JH: What do you think about the guys who will replace Tim Duncan and Blake Ferguson?

Hayes: Josh (Roberts) is coming in July and then we have Steven Sarrubi — a junior college all-american, coming also. We have some young men that are going to be okay.

Needless to say, a position that's overlooked and you have to make sure you get that taken care of is the snapper. Right now, we've got some young men that did a good job during the spring, but we just need to make sure they continue to get better at it. Everyone forgets about Ben Panter, he was flawless for us in a bunch of games. The tough thing is because things went so well for us in that area the last three years that his name never got called unless he made a mistake. A lot of credit needs to go to Ben for the good job he did getting the ball back there and giving our guys a chance.

JH: Who is the favorite to replace Panter?

Hayes: Right now "KK" (Kory Klein) has done a good job and is probably our number one snapper. We just have to see how it goes in the fall. We have a young man coming in that's a freshmen, so we'll have to wait and see how that goes. Our holder will stay the same and that's Matt McCoy.

JH: Does McCoy still give you the ability to do some fakes out of the kicking game?

Hayes: Matt does a good job for us, so we won't change that. Matt is a good athlete. He was a quarterback in high school. Don't fall asleep thinking that we're uncapable. We'll still bring our full arsenal of plays and be ready to go.

JH: Who are the candidates for the kick and punt returns as we approach two-a-days?

Hayes: I'm really excited for Antwone (Savage) and this being his senior year. He's done a great job for us on kickoff returns. Then we have Curtis (Fagan), who has been solid and done a good job for us. We've got a couple young guys like Perkins and Bassey that we've looked at a little bit. We have an assortment of people we're going to look at and put a good combination together.

The punt return is the place right now we have to work on the most. A lot of people put pressure on Curtis because we weren't as productive as we were a year ago when we had J.T. Part of that is true, but part of it is because we didn't do a good enough job up front either. We have to do a much better job at that, not just with the interior but with the outside guys holding up the flyers coming downfield. If we do that, we give our return man a chance to get started north and south and that will give us a better chance to get better field position for our offense.

JH: Will Kejuan Jones be involved on kick returns?

Hayes: Kejuan is going to be involved as a return man. He definitely has a knack and we're going to really look at it this fall, as well as his punt block capabilities. He did a really good job on the scout team and he really likes to do it.

JH: Rocky Calmus and Roy Williams both made a lot of special teams plays. Who do you think can step up and fill those roles this year?

Hayes: We're looking for guys all the time. Those are the guys who also have to create field position. We're looking for people who want to run down and hit people in the mouth and make plays while understanding how to get off blocks, stay on your feet and make a tackle. We have a few guys who I think have a chance. Guys like Lance Mitchell and Pasha Jackson, and Teddy Lehman is going to be back again. Michael Thompson is another one. We've got Derrick Strait and Andre Woolfolk, who are going to be very important on the outside. If you're being singled on the outside we have to win. Those guys understand that and we expect it from them.

JH: What are your longterm goals as a coach?

Hayes: Right now I'm very happy where I'm at. I like the college game and enjoy working with the young men and watching develop and grow. I enjoy watching the light bulbs come on and them going on out on the field on Saturday's and execute. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. Needless to say, we all want to progress in our jobs and if you do a good job I think those things will happen. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to be my own boss one day. That's what I'm working towards, but I'm not in a hurry. I'm not unhappy here at the University of Oklahoma. I have a great job and an opportunity to use the knowledge that I've gathered as a pro player and apply back to young players. It's been a lot of fun. I have a lot to bring to the table and I'm continuing to grow and learn and get better, just as I did as a player.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories