Summer Practice Interview: Ron Crook

Making the transition from coaching FCS football to FBS isn't always easy. But it helps to inherit the likes of Jonathan Martin, Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, and Levine Toilolo in a position group. That's the position Ron Crook, a former Harvard offensive line coach who accepted a position as tackles/tight ends coach at Stanford found himself in upon his arrival to The Farm.

After a recent summer practice, The Bootleg caught up with Crook to discuss his move West, the difference between recruiting and coaching at Harvard and Stanford, and his take on Stanford's tight ends and offensive linemen.

The Bootleg: We haven't talked to you, so if you had some time, I just wanted to get the back story of your coming West. When did you first hear from Coach Shaw, what was the process behind you coming out here?
Ron Crook: I really had a friend that was good friends with Coach Hamilton that kind of got me involved in it and got me to Coach Shaw through him. Things kind of grew from there. I knew a lot of people who knew people here, so that helped out. Just every time I turned around I had a connection through somebody else to somebody here.

TB: Were you the one who reached out to David, or was it more a mutual thing?
RC: Yeah, I definitely reached out to him, again through Coach Pep Hamilton, and he really helped me a lot here on this end.

TB:Why were you interested in the job?
RC: Well, an opportunity to No. 1, work for a guy like Coach Shaw and with a guy like Coach Hamilton was an opportunity I couldn't walk away from. A chance to come to a program like Stanford with the success they've had, and quite honestly to be in a place like this area is something we couldn't walk away from, and had to jump at the opportunity when it was there.

TB: Then you get here, and in spring practice, what stood out to you the most about the group of tackles and tight ends? RC: I think No. 1, just the skill level that they have. They're a very talented group, they have a long way to go right now until we can say we're a championship football team again, but they really work hard at the process, they enjoy coming out to practice every day, trying to improve, trying to become complete players. On a daily basis they put that effort in.

TB: So we know that barring something totally strange, Jonathan Martin will be the starting left tackle, bur right tackle is a little bit more complicated. Could you just talk about hat position battle right now?
RC: There are three guys: Tyler Mabry, who's been in some games and played a decent amount here, then two younger guys, Cameron Fleming and David Yankey, who have both shown signs and have made a lot of improvement, but again, all three of them, before we can say we're at a level we want to be at, have a long way to go. But they're working hard to get there, and it's going to be a fun competition in the next couple of weeks.

TB: Is there a frontrunner in that group right now?
RC: At this point, I really don't think there is.

TB: When do you hope to have a starter named at those positions? RC: We certainly hope to by the time we get around to the game week for the first game, for San Jose, but if it happens earlier than that then it happens. We're waiting for somebody, and hopefully over the next few days when we get the pads on, somebody will step up a little bit.

TB: For the purposes of line cohesion, because with last year's group, even though each player was very talented, maybe the whole was greater than sum of the parts, because they had been together so much, do you feel more pressure to get a starter in their early so they can get familiar with their line-mates?
RC: There always is the pressure that I think we put on ourselves to do that, but I think the whole team chemistry part of it is very important and we're really trying to see how that works into it as well, and all the guys are going to have a role with this team, regardless of how it works out, all of them are probably going to be on the field some point playing for us.

TB: Tight ends, this probably a tight end coach's dream to have the three star tight ends Stanford has, but when you first stepped foot here and saw them practice, what was going through your mind?
RC: I think the biggest think you notice when you see those guys, the'yre extremely athletic and long and tall and can run well and catch the ball well, but the biggest suprise is when you see them line up and see them in meetings they're always talking about becoming a better blocker. At the end of practice before they start talking about a big catch they had, ‘hey, I got that block on zone today, did you see that?' So they're fired up about the blocking aspect of things, too.

TB: So now the challenge becomes how to maximize everybody's talents.
RC: Sure, sure. And how we'll do that will be determined over the next few weeks, and how we use them in a game plan depends on how each of them works into the role we see for them and how they improve on the things they need to work at.

TB: Coming from Harvard, would say the personnel, not so much talent-wise, but in terms of coachability, ability to be taught, is more similar than say it would be at an SEC school?
RC: I certainly think so. I've never been in the SEC, but I certainly think so. The players on the team here are similar to the ones there. They're extremely mentally tough, they set the bar very high on the field, off the field, in the classroom, things like that, so it's been a real smooth transition from that standpoint.

TB: Final thing, how different is recruiting here at Stanford compared to Harvard?
RC: The difference is that I don't think you're initially looking at as many people. Because at Harvard, the standard wasn't as high from the athletic standpoint. Academically, certainly it was. But here we have a few less people to go through. Here also, with scholarships, you can know pretty quick who's interested and who isn't and who we can be interested in and who we're not interested in.

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