DeLeone to lead Reb offensive line

It would be hard to put together a more wide-ranging or impressive resume' than the one George DeLeone has compiled in over three decades of coaching on the college and pro levels. His bio is impeccable, but what are the inner thoughts on his new situation at Ole Miss? We had the opportunity to sit down with the new OL coach recently. The following are the results.

George DeLeone has coached a lot of bowl teams, All-Americans and pro football players. He has been a head coach and has coordinated on both sides of the ball on the college level.

You can find that information on the Syracuse Orangemen web site. But what are his inner thoughts about his new situation, his new boss, what it takes to excel as an offensive lineman and many other subjects?

Coach DeLeone, pronounced D-le-own, was gracious enough to sit down with us during this hectic transition and give us some insight on these various matters and more.

Spirit: You worked with Coach Ed Orgeron at Syracuse for two years. What are your impressions of him?

DeLeone: I was blessed to have the opportunity to know Ed Orgeron through a great high school coach in New Orleans by the name of Hank Tierney. He's the coach now at West Jefferson HS and was at Archbishop Shaw for years. Hank introduced me to Ed and recommended Ed to us at Syracuse as a potential candidate for a coaching position we had open. Our head coach at Syracuse, Paul Pasqualoni, ended up hiring him. I go back with Ed a few years. The thing that has always impressed me with Coach Orgeron is his passion for the game, his unbelievable intensity on the practice field. He got more out of his players on the practice field than any coach I have been around in pro football and college football for over 35 years. He was as demanding in terms of effort, focus and concentration - on and off the field - as any coach I have been around, but yet he has that ability that the players love him. They know he cares about them and is only interested in their best. He made a tremendous impact at Syracuse - tremendous impact. We had a pretty good run when Ed was there with the 1997 Fiesta Bowl, the Liberty Bowl and the Gator Bowl. He did a fabulous job during that stretch with guys who were not first round draft choices.

Spirit: Were you coaching the OL at Syracuse when Ed was the DL coach?

DeLeone: Yes, and offensive coordinator. That's something else I was going to mention. The reason he had the impact on our team he did was that his defensive line made everyone better. Their pass rush was so good it helped the pass defense a great deal. And then, the way the DL was coached every day, it made our OL better. He had an impact on both sides of the ball.

Spirit: Obviously, you respect him a lot.

DeLeone: Yes. The thing I respect about him the most, though, is his brutal honesty. He is a man's man. You can trust his word, take it to the bank. There is no grey area with him. He tells it like it is. He's not a politician or what I call a fast talker. You know where you stand every single day and you can trust him implicitly with everything he says. I was thrilled to death when he gave me the opportunity to work with him at Ole Miss.

Spirit: You will also be working with Noel Mazzone, the new OC. What are your impressions of him?

DeLeone: I've known Noel for many years. We first met during recruiting when he was at Colorado State a long time ago. Then we started speaking together at coaching clinics for years. I have coached against Noel when he was at Minnesota. I have always followed his career and have always respected his work. I'm looking forward to doing anything I can to assist him here.

Spirit: What do you look for in an offensive lineman?

DeLeone: There are four components to being a great offensive lineman. The first component is mental. A player has to be dedicated to knowing and learning the offense. You can't be aggressive if there is any doubt in your mind about your assignment. I tell kids all the time they have to know the offense as well as they know their social security number. You don't have to think about it, you just react. The second component is a physical one - the weight room, aerobic training, speed work, plyometrics, the strength training, etc. What can they become physically, strength-wise? He must be a dedicated weight lifter and conditioner. He must be exceptional in that area. Third, he must have a fundamental concept. Good players competing against good players must have an edge fundamentally. We will stress that strongly. You must be a technician and you must have a burning desire to be a technician in the offensive line. So much of it is fundamentals and techniques. Fourth, there has to be a toughness component. There's no other way to say it - this is a violent game. You have to be willing to take the intensity in practice and willing to be coached hard and apply that to the violence of the game. Those are the four areas I look for. Obviously, there are physical characteristics I look for beyond those four components - the ability to bend, flexibility, the ability to move.

Spirit: These days, offensive linemen have to be athletes and not just guys who weren't good enough to play on the defensive line. Correct?

DeLeone: Yes. The best athletes you face, especially in this conference, are on the defensive line. You've got to have foot quickness, athletic ability and flexibility to compete against the defensive linemen on this level. Offensive linemen are no longer the non-athletic road graders. They must be great athletes. In the past, OL coaches were asked to take kids who can't play defense and block the ones who can. That's no longer the case - they must be more of a skilled athlete than 10 or 20 years ago.

Spirit: On your bio, you have experience as a defensive coach/coordinator. How has that helped you become a better offensive coach?

DeLeone: I've been blessed. I was the head coach at Southern Connecticut State back in 1976, and I was also the defensive coordinator because the best coach I could hire to help me with the program was an offensive guy. It forced me to learn defense the next four years. Without question, the best training you can have as an offensive coach is to become a defensive coach. Later on in my career, I was at Rutgers as a DL coach and then in 1998 I was the DC at Syracuse the year we went to the Orange Bowl. It was a tremendous experience for me to understand what defensive coaches are attacking, their thought process in attacking offenses and their mentality. When you grade film of defenses as an offensive coach, that defensive experience gives me an better understanding of how to break down an opposing defense.

Spirit: So you feel like you have an edge having coached on both sides of the ball.

DeLeone: I think you need some kind of edge. I don't know if that's mine or not, but I think it helped me personally in my development as a coach.

Spirit: What is your style? When we go to practice, what are we going to see from George DeLeone?

DeLeone: I only know one way to work and that's as hard as you possibly can. I'm a guy who will coach with great intensity and be demanding about the fundamentals, techniques and exactness. I'm a guy who will get in players' faces in a positive way and in a negative way, whichever the situation calls for. Off the field, I'm going to have a relationship with them where they know I care. I'm going to demand their best and if I'm going to do that, I've got to demand the best of myself.

Spirit: What type of line blocking will you coach?

DeLeone: We haven't gotten that far along with the offense yet. Whatever Coach Orgeron and Coach Mazzone feel will give us the best chance to win is what we will do. Fortunately in my background I've done it all. I have experience in a lot of different systems. In today's day and age, there are four unique and distinct blocking schemes. The most popular is zone blocking. Then there's a double-team scheme, a down blocking scheme where you block down and pull people, and a draw blocking scheme. Most offensive runs will fit into those four categories. We will have to be well-versed in those four categories, but again we are not that far along yet in terms of what the Ole Miss offense will be.

Spirit: Have you watched any of the returning Rebel OL on tape yet?

DeLeone: I have some. I spoke with Chris (Spencer) on the phone, I saw Tre' (Stallings) in here yesterday and I have a call in to Bobby (Harris). I see good athletic ability from them and I also see a strong capability of leadership with them too. I like what I hear and see. Any time there is a coaching change, you have to get used to each other. We will all understand Ole Miss football is at the top of our agenda and we will be fine.

Spirit: What are your impressions of Ole Miss thus far?

DeLeone: As a kid growing up in New Haven, CT, which is a long way from Oxford, MS, I was a tremendous college football fan. My happiest day of the year was going to the local drug store and buying Street & Smith's preview magazine each summer. It was in those pages I learned about Jake Gibbs and then Jake came and played for the New York Yankees, which was my team. It was a big thrill for me several years ago when former Ole Miss OL Coach Joe Wickline asked me to come to Oxford to talk to Coach Billy Brewer's offensive staff about option football. I got to meet the great Coach John Vaught. I was also in Oxford when John Lovett was the SC there doing a seminar on defense. Both times I was there, I saw the facilites and I was shocked to see the poor facilities I saw with the great tradition Ole Miss had and has. When Coach Orgeron hired me, he talked a lot about the great commitment to facilities Ole Miss had made. When I got here, it was obvious he was telling the truth. At Syracuse, we were talking about upgrading our facilities. I talked to a couple of pro scouts recently and asked them about the best facilities they had seen. A couple of them mentioned Ole Miss. I said 'that can't be right. . . Ole Miss? I've been to Tennessee and other places.' They said: 'coach, Ole Miss' are better.' They were right. This indoor complex strikes you right away - fantastic facility, top of the line. The other thing is the passion and love Ole Miss people have for Ole Miss and their football program. It will be very easy to get caught up in that. I am proud and honored to be here.

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