A Conversation with Ron Lynn: Part II
The following is the second part of a three-part conversation, conducted at the Arrillaga Family Sports Center on Thursday, June 19, 2008. "Emeritus" sat down with the most recent addition to the Stanford Football coaching staff, Defensive Co-Coordinator Ron Lynn. In a refreshingly candid interview, Coach Lynn discusses his own perception of his role, his expectations for the Stanford program, playing on the road, and much more. We did not spend time delving into A-gaps, cover-2, and the 3-technique, saving those for another day.
TB: Coach, let's talk about your arrival on the Farm. What do you bring to the table for the Stanford coaching staff? Why would you have hired yourself if you were Jim Harbaugh? Why did he bring in a "Ron Lynn"?
RL: (Laughing) Because he is kind of a good-lookin', sexy guy! I think it's still a college football team, so by nature they are still pretty young guys. The defensive coaching staff, while experienced, is still chronologically fairly young. I am really impressed with the defensive coaches, as I am with the offensive coaches, but we are talking here about the defense. This is a really wonderful group of teachers and motivators, good tacticians, and I am looking forward to the fall when we have gameplans to put together because I think there will be some really good exchanges of thoughts and information. I think we're on the same page in terms of the concepts and philosophies that we want to engender here, the kind of product we want to put on the field. There is an element of competitiveness within the staff that goes ahead and translates to the players.
TB: That's all great, but what about you?
RL: I think I am here to provide a little bit of leadership and a little bit of mentoring. Hopefully I can be a bit of a sounding board for Coach Harbaugh at times.
TB: Is that something you appreciated from more "senior" members of coaching staffs of which you have been a part?
RL: Oh sure. I have seen a lot of games. I have sat in the box a lot of times. Now, will I always have the right answer? No, but I'll have an answer and I will have a reason why I'll give the answer. And will it work out? Hopefully more often than not. When you have had 23 years in pro football, of spending time where you do nothing but football, where you don't worry about the tutors, the class sections, the recruiting - You're not involved in that - you spend a lot of time on the technical aspects of the game, the little things. For example, I am sitting here writing up some things now just to put in, to cover certain game situations that can come up. On fourth down, when do you intercept the ball, when do you not intercept the ball? When do you knock it down? You can't assume anything. It isn't really any different than dealing with the pro guys because you start from Day One every time you start anywhere. We will have a very fundamental teaching approach when it comes to everything from stance to technique, to how to deliver a blow, how to get off blocks, play entry, etc. Those are the kind of things you have to have at every level to be successful. So yeah, I think that each of these gray hairs that are here has been well-earned. Those that are gone couldn't stand the pressures! I am very, very enthusiastic about the opportunity (at Stanford). Had it not been here, I don't think I would have come out of retirement, couldn't have been able to do it.
TB: Can you talk a bit about the Cardinal's 2008 schedule - after the home opener against Oregon State we go on the road for four of the next five games? What is your philosophy for preparing to play in a hostile environment?
RL: If those road games do anything, they kind of remove the security blanket. You have to say "OK, guys, we are going to have to link arms and look outward and protect one another's back because about the only guys that care about us when we walk into those stadia are the guys that are on the field with us and in the press box with us." It's a pretty small group and you have to forge an alliance.
TB: Raucous, loud-mouthed, traveling Stanford fans are not likely to take over an Autzen Stadium in the near future?
RL: Uh, no.. the Duck calls are not going to be drowned out. From a defensive standpoint, if the home team crowd has any level of intellect, they understand that they want to be quiet when their offense is on the field, therefore our communications opportunities ought to be even better on the road. When we have to make adjustments, and check calls, and respond to motion and all of that, we ought to be even better. Can the opponent's home crowd provide them with a little shot of adrenaline? Absolutely. And the best way to handle that is to take the crowd out of the game early and that would come from making big defensive plays, stopping 'em a few times, make the kinds of plays that we would hope to make - getting turnovers, scoring on defense, taking their momentum, taking their crowd out of the game. There is nothing more satisfying than having a game with about seven or eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter and having an insurmountable lead and watching the home team fans stream from of the stadium. That's pretty cool stuff.
TB: Do you share this ambitious "buy-in" of Stanford having unlimited upside? Can you help provide a "BCS-caliber" defense by 2010?
RL: I think it can happen, I do. It is "PFP". It's players, not formations and plays. If you don't have players, you can get to a certain level. We got to a level defensively a year ago that probably surpassed some people's expectations. But to know "The Rest of the Story" as Paul Harvey would say, we need to get better. We need to improve with the guys we have and we will need to have more good players, more numbers to get to that point. I don't know [yet] how we are going to do that because of the walk-on restrictions, and when I say restrictions, I mean because of how difficult it is to get into school here and how expensive it is. But there may be some kids - that second-tier guy with some of the new [financial aid] policies, the family income levels, where maybe you attract a guy here or there. And you never know, the one kid could be the catalyst to trigger two or three other guys who buy in and say "Yeah, I like the guys there, I could go there and we would really have the chance to do something special." I don't think there is any problem with our competing at the top level for the top guys. I think we can do that. Now, can we win enough games [in the interim] to have them believe we can get to that BCS level, which is where we want to be and where they want to be?
TB: Where they aren't tempted or forced to make the "football-first" decision?
RL: There have been spurts and fits and starts and places in time where that has been the case here [playing at a national-caliber lever]. The last national championship?
TB: 1926, disputed.
RL: Maybe it's time, 82 years later. Who knows? You can't tell... on a bounce of the ball, an obscure call that an official makes, all of a sudden a couple of things happen and guys start thinking "we are better than anybody thinks we are" or "Maybe we are even better than we thought we were!" And whether you are or whether you aren't? If you think you are, some times you have a chance to be! You can go past that point too and be at the point where in today's world of "everybody gets a trophy" and "My God, you guys are great! They just scored 54, but man, you're great!" Well that's not going to happen either. So can we get there? I'm not going to be the one to provide it. The players will. Will we be able to provide some direction, some inspiration? Absolutely! Will we be able to make them better football players? Undeniably. Will we be able to be good enough? Time will tell.
TB: So speaking of good players, and we can't talk about all of them today.... Let's start with linebacker Clint Snyder. You have been around the block, Coach. How good is Snyder? How much of his potential have we seen so far? Is he a "great college player" or "10-year NFL starter"?
RL: He's both. I think we have seen a lot of his potential, but he is getting better and better and better! His "will to win", his ability to "put it on the line" - I am giving you all of the clichés now, but those are the things, really, that make damn good football players. Is he the most physically-gifted guy? No. Is he the most physically-gifted guy on our team? No. But it is not always the most physically-gifted guy - there aren't a lot of those that go on and become ultra-successful. There are a lot of them that have flashes and their star burns bright for three or four years and they crap it away - and when they hit it [the wall of handling and sustaining success], they plummet. I think he's tough, he can run well enough, he is athletic enough. He can become a better "knee-bender" with practice and emphasis. Long, tall guys, long-legged guys have a tendency to not to be great "knee-benders", but not only does it enhance a guy's ability as a player, but it enhances his longevity if he can become better [at playing lower] because he's not put in vulnerable positions as often. There are still things he can do. Is he as good as he can be? No. I think he can be better.
TB: We talked about playing on the road. When you arrive on an opponent's campus, who would you send off the team bus first?
RL: Hmm.....Pannel. [Smiling] That's kind of an impressive-looking guy coming off the bus [Clearly implying an understatement].
TB: You wouldn't want to see that coming from the other side?
RL: I don't want to watch the other guys coming off the bus at all, to be honest with you! But yes, Pannel Egboh has got a chance to play football well past his Stanford time too! But there are a number of guys on this team that have that opportunity. Will they be drafted in the first round, second round, third round? I have no idea. Some of it is going to have to depend on how they play, but also because the next level guys are so oriented to the stop watch and the tape measure, you have to take what you have and go from there.
TB: A couple of "fill-in-the-blanks" for you: People will be surprised when they see ____ this year?
RL: I think "Pamo" (CB Wopamo Osaisai). I know there are a lot of high expectations for Clint, a lot of expectations for Pannel. I know Ekom has had great marketing done on his behalf, given what he had done coming out of high school, when you're a five-star guy and all. He hasn't yet been able, for whatever reasons, to achieve to that level...yet. So would there be a surprise if he did really well? I don't think people would be surprised as much as they might be with Pamo. I don't think they would be surprised with Bo (McNally) playing well and achieving. The other corner is going to be an interesting proposition - as it will be with Wopamo, there are no "locks" on anything right now.
TB: Corner success should represent a lot of the "beta" in our success potential in 2008?
RL: Yes, that will have a big influence.
TB: You would give your right arm for ____ right now?
RL: Well, we're reasonably fast. We have enough size at some of the right places, I guess we just need "more". More bodies that can run, that'll hit you..
In the final part of our three-part interview with Coach Ron Lynn, we will discuss some of the recruiting-related issues Stanford Football is attempting to address.
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