AUDIO: Polamalu on Running Backs

We sat down with new running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu to talk over his coaching philosophy, how he's adjusting to UCLA, and what kinds of backs he prefers...


AUDIO: ***Interview with Kennedy Polamalu***

On the adjustment to UCLA:
I'm adjusting well. Good people. Coach Mora has been outstanding. Coach Noel Mazzone has been great. The support staff, the student-athletes, the players, have been outstanding. Learning how to get to campus, where to park, making sure I don't get a parking ticket here. It's been a good ride. Learning to manipulate the 405 and the 10, the 101 and the 405. Its nice because my kid is at Loyola HS and I get him there at 6 in the morning and then get on the 10 and into Lot 7 in the morning.

On observations during bowl practices:
The personnel, the young men work hard. Obviously, thats a credit to Coach Mora and the staff. They put their trust in the coach. I felt the adjustment was fine. I wanted to make sure they stayed in an environment they were comfortable in because athletes are into routines, and I preach routines for during the season and then post-season. I'm a big person in developing a routine, developing and making sure they're available. The number one thing for me as a coach, is availability. Not running fast, none of those abilities are good if they can't play on game day. So we wanted to keep the routine. Coach Foster, DeShaun, who was a great, great player here and in the NFL. I've known DeShaun and I tried to recruit DeShaun. It was a fun relationship. I said 'DeShaun, you go through the drills' and as the drills went on, I would talk to him about this fundamental. Maybe your foot this way, your hands a little higher. Not really over teach, but add the fundamental basics of what I want to see. And believe me, I'm not a brilliant guy, I just want to keep things simple and try to capture things one way or another, and adjust things here. I think those young men at running back, I think their parents, their community, their high school and Coach Mora, they've done an outstanding job.

On if he's watched any film of the running backs from last year:
I've been doing it the whole time. Right after the bowl, it was recruiting and that's a whole other competitive field. It's hard to pull yourself away from that, because you jump in with both feet and you try to get to know the recruits you're recruiting and their background. We went into that and to Signing Day. From Signing Day till now, I've been watching the film and studying it. I've gotten about 80% of it. I have another weke before spring practice. I have a lot of questions for the players and the coaching staff so I can do a better job of communicating and teaching so I can get their talents the best they can be for the football team.

On if the current personnel helps with recruiting decision:
Yes, that's where Coach Mora and Coach Noel and their design and my history, they always tease me, does that fit my profile. There is a profile that I try to recruit to over time from my experience. You're not 100%, there is going to be some exceptions. I like to think with evaluations and your eyes, I feel pretty good that a high percentage, that's what we're looking for.

On what kind of back he's looking for:
I tend to go that way (the bigger back), to the history of where I've coached at whatever level. I tend to go for the bigger guy who can carry the ball, break some tackles, those safeties and corners kind of look at him and say 'maybe I won't tackle him, maybe I'll run alongside of him and jump on him'. I think Myles has allowed that process of the profile, because his production is unheard of for a freshman in any conference to be the offensive and defensive freshman of the year. Which is great for UCLA, which is great for Coach Mora. There are a lot of kids similiating that, I have a young son myself, and he's like 'dad, can I meet Myles.' It's a great buzz and it helps in recruiting and he's just an outstanding young man and that's exciting. In that profile and in that mold, we're competing for those guys. In this offense, you have to catch the football, so there are some traits that will be required. It doesn't just mean you have a running back who runs hard, but one who can catch away from his body. A running back that has some mobility because we want to outflank you and put you out in space. You want to see a blocker who when he's not making those moves, he can push forward.

On if he's been recruiting Myles Jack to play offense:
I've been trying, I've been trying. You know Coach Mora has a very strong relationship with the family. I didn't know that the kid is from Georgia to Seattle and now he's in Los Angeles, it sounds like he's followed Coach Mora wherever he went. Coach has talked with me about what we recruited Myles for, and that was linebacker, but there are some packages. You have to practice. And it's nice when you know you're getting the ball and you're going this way, but when you have to protect the quarterback, and people think its easy but then you have to diagnose whats going on every down and you're not going to sit there and hand off the ball, you have to know the whole playbook and that's difficult if you're going both ways, but you want to package things that will help him and help us. I've been trying, but I don't know if it's working.

On coaching in the spread:
Not the tempo. I've been in the NFL, two-minute offenses, no timeouts. That tempo. But to me, it's still the same. You still have got to know your blocking and figure out how the line is blocking and the run and receivers, the spacing. It's exciting for me, new terminology. My first time out here it was like, 'oh, that concept.' It's just named different. THen they'll use it, and they'll be like 'Kennedy, it's Y Option' and I'm like 'yeah, I see it.' That's how I coach. I want that running back to know where he's supposed to be, when he's supposed to be. I always teach the Why's. Why are you looking up in that part of the field. So they understand the spacing. So it's fun for me. Then you're teaching, and then you have conversation, instead of just assignments, and they're asking 'coach, shouldn't that guy have been over there.' And when they see it, it's a joy to watch them grow and then they start to understand where the soft spots are, what the defense is trying to do and if they put a new linebacker in that position who hasn't practiced there through their scouting report, that guys not going to be there, maybe I take advantage of that. Those indicators that 1-2 plays a game, I can take advantage of. That was fun.

On his relationship with players:
I think in coaching, coaches tell you all the time, it's earning the trust. If they know you have their back, they will play lights out for the team. But if there is no trust, its like anything in life, any relationship, I think that's just the way I do it.

On Jordon James:
Obviously, Coach Mora has had us all make a point of attack, write up, kind of an NFL thing, write up guys, so it's fun for me, to write up with DeShaun Foster helping me out. It relates to the film. Those are things that we're working on. I just believe that the kid has really good vision and he has deceptive speed. He has very good body control and from my understanding, they brought him in as a slot guy to catch the ball. He has exceptional hands. Obviously, he's had three running backs coaches, two offensive coordinators, so mentally, the mental part, for all of them, has been the fun, fun part for me. Once we get our mental stamina, they know the plays. Now your left guard is blocking this way, your left tackle is holding this guy off a little more. The mental game is coming around and it will increase their mental stamina and it will improve what we're doing. And it's fun. It's a challenge. I want them to love the game. Every part of the game. How does it feel if you don't block your guy and Brett Hundley gets hit in the back? How do you feel if the left guard is pulling and you cut it back? You have to understand what they're doing because when you understand that, it's really exciting and you work off each other. That's where I believe his game is going to grow. We talked about how the number one thing is availability and he had the ankle issue. and he went through and Sal is probably the best strength coach I've ever been around. I was out here for Pro Day and the Jets defensive coordinator, who I've known for a long time, he's just going 'man, I wish we had Sal back. He led us to two AFC Championship Games. Our players hated him throughout the week but they loved him during the game.' And I think that's where our players, they're going into their third year, they're going into that growth. Going back to Jordon, I see a lot of growth in him. His body is great, he's been working in the offseason. We have sat down and talked about different things about how we need to communicate, how we're going to train your eyes. Little things about attacking the line of scrimmage. I really believe in teaching collision and that's how Myles runs, and that's why I love it. A lot of the drills they're going through, they're going to learn how to give collision, how to take collision and how to recover from collision. With Sal and with our training staff and the routine they'll learn after practice, before practice and during practice and helping their bodies recover.

On if he'll name a starter:
I've been around college football for a long time, and like before, it's very difficult to go with one back, and those who do it, it takes a lot on your body. Your ego always gets you as a position protector as a coach. Your ego always looks good when you have a 1,200 yard runner. But I will take three that rush for 3,000. We have to be a team. Whoever is in the game has to be productive for us to be successful. You'd like for your ego to say your running back rushed for 2,000 yards. But if I can get production when they're in the game and nothing drops off, I think that will be great.


Bruin Report Online Top Stories