When Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron was asked why he promoted Defensive Graduate Assistant Dave Corrao to one of the coveted nine "fulltime" assistant coaching slots on his staff, he did not hesitate in his response.
"Dave has been tested the past two years in the heat of battle. He helped with critical decisions during games and I learned to trust his input," said Orgeron. "Coach Corrao is very intelligent and has been one of the hardest workers on my staff the past two years. I reward production and hard work."
Orgeron said there were instances in the 2006 campaign when Corrao would take the lead in defensive staff meetings, rare for a GA, but what is expected under O.
"I was looking for an expert in breaking down film as a defensive graduate assistant and Dave was recommended," he continued. "After he was here a short time, I realized I could give him a lot more responsibilities than that and he could handle it. It evloved from there."
Corrao, who has kept a low profile as a GA on the staff Orgeron's first two years, is quite personable when he opens up.
Take his name, for instance, pronounced core-ray-o.
"The brutal way my name is spelled is only surpassed by the many ways it is pronounced incorrectly," he deadpanned.
When Corrao got out of college in 1997 with a degree from Arizona in creative writing, he began a career in the corporate world, selling computers. It didn't take long for him to find out he missed football, which he played collegiately for one year at San Diego State.
"My high school coach told me I should come out in the afternoons and help him out working with the junior varsity guys," Corrao explained. "My father commented I waas a different person between August and December, when football was going on, than I was the rest of the year.
"Afer that conversation, I figured I was missing out on the career I was destined for."
Corrao then went on an unlikely journey to get started in the profession, one of those a-guy-who-knew-a-guy-who-knew-a-brother's-friend deals.
Long story short, Dave and his wife Trisha packed up and moved all the way from California to Syracuse, NY, where he took a job as a GA and earned a master's degree in instructional design development and evaluation while working with curent Rebel DB Coach Chris Rippon and former OL Coach George DeLeone, who both came to Ole Miss when Orgeron was hired.
They recommended Corrao to Orgeron and the deal was struck for him to GA at Ole Miss. The rest is, as they say, history.
Gradually, Orgeron recognized he had a gem in Dave and expanded his duties.
"I guess you could say I became the eye in the sky for the defense," Corrao said. "Tony Hughes and I were the information feedback for Coach O on the sidelines.
"I have a knack for being able to see the movement of all 22 players on the field. All the moving parts make sense to me - that is my strength, I believe."
Corrao was constantly feeding back info to Orgeron and O was able to base his defensive calls on that feedback.
"Who is blocking the Mike LB? What is the QB looking at? What are their run schemes? Who missed a fit? Is that a new play? How do we diagram it up? What have we shown them on the first play of the last three series? What have they shown us? All of that, and more, is vital to the defensive coordinator," Corrao noted, "and I suppose I have a knack for supplying that information in a timely fashion.
"These days, if you are waiting until halftime to make adjustments, you are a half behind. We make adjustments right away, after each series, based on the information we have gathered and the feedback our sideline coaches are getting."
Corrao obviously passed that barrier with flying colors or else there would have been no promotion, but now his tasks intensify.
"Last year, we had an All-American at MLB who didn't need anything but fine-tuning and he helped with the younger guys," said Corrao. "This year, we will be back to square one with new linebackers across the board and we will have to build from the ground up. That will be my challenge as a new, and young, coach.
"What we are striving for is to not only have linebackers who are good at what they do and understand their responsibilities, but also understand the concepts of what the opponent is trying to do. When you get three guys who are an extension of the coach, that's when you have a big-time linebacking corps."
Corrao is extremely excited that his first year as a fulltime assistant will also be the first year for new Rebel Defensive Coordinator John Thompson.
"I know Coach Thompson is a very experienced LB coach. I sit with him every day and he guides me with the process and progressions that he has used in similar situations as this one we are facing - with new players," he explained. "Coach Rippon is also an experienced LB coach, so I have a wealth of knowledge to draw from as I start down this path.
"We are still going to run what we run, but I think Coach Thompson will bring some out-of-the-box thinking to the table and we are going to have a lot of fun putting it all together."
Corrao feels he's ready for the challenge. He's been groomed and has paid his dues to get this opportunity.
"I can't tell you how much I am loving what I am doing and how much I love where I'm doing it," he closed. "We have an opportunity to do something really big here and I'm proud to be a part of it.
"I am very appreciative of Coach O for giving me this opportunity. I will not let him or Ole Miss down."
Dave Corrao takes over LBs
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