Bieniemy: "Feels Great to be a Bruin"

Having played and coached for Colorado, the season opener at Colorado is a big game for running backs coach <b>Eric Bieniemy</b>. The famously feisty coach talks about it, and about returning home to Los Angeles...

After spending the last two seasons as the running back coach at his alma mater, former All-American tailback Eric Bieniemy left Colorado to return to his hometown and be the running backs coach at UCLA. Bieniemy talks about making the move, the stable of running backs here and his players watching him on ESPN Classic.

BRO: Having been in the game for so long, what's been the difference between being a college football player, and now being a college football coach?

Bieniemy: "The difference is that I have to make sure they know what they are doing. You know, I see why I drove a lot of coaches crazy. Being on the other side of the desk, you truly have to be a great teacher, hone in and make sure kids are understanding the details. It isn't the big things, you know, because they all can run the ball. It's the little things that help them become a great player. So you have to make sure you are taking the time to teach them these things and that they are applying them."

BRO: You were a smaller, powerful running back. You now have guys like Maurice Drew and Tyler Ebell, who were similar to you, then there's someone like Manuel White, who has the power with the size. Is it easier when you have that talent and versatility in the backfield?

Bieniemy: "It is. I've inherited a great backfield, coming in, inheriting Manuel White, Tyler Ebell, Akil Harris, Jason Harrison, Pat Norton, J.D. Groves. I've inherited a good group of backs. Now with the freshmen coming in, Maurice (Drew) and Derrick (Williams), we just need to step it up a notch. I'm excited, and once we get the right chemistry and find out who can help, I think we can go a long way with the group we have."

BRO: At Colorado the last two years, you were able to get guys like Bobby Purify, Chris Brown, and Cortlen Johnson enough carries to keep them happy, so you know how to spread the carries around. Are you hoping to be able to accomplish the same thing here with this crop of backs?

Bieniemy: "I would hope so. Tyler and Manuel are the guys starting, and we'll play Manuel short-yardage. Now we are trying to see which other guy will step up. The more the merrier. It makes it harder for a team to prepare, when there is more than one style of back. If one back is hot that game, he gets to go."

BRO: The opener (at Colorado) is going to be huge, because it's the first game of the season, the first game under Coach Dorrell and it's on the road. For you, having played and coached there, how big will it be?

Bieniemy: "It's going to be fun. It's also going to be hard. Some of my best memories as a player happened there. Some of my best memories early in my coaching career happened there. Now, I have to go as an opponent. It's going to be hard, because I helped recruit some of those players, I helped build the program. But you know what, I have a job to do and we have to go out and take care of our business."

BRO: Colorado gave you your first opportunity to be a coach, and then you left two years later.. Was it hard leaving Colorado and coming to UCLA? Bieniemy: "It's a great opportunity. You know, my wife is from L.A. I'm from L.A. My brothers and sisters are here. Her brothers and sisters are here, so it makes everything easy. One thing you can't take for granted is family. If you have family that can support you, it makes it easy in the long run. That's one of the reasons why I left CU, not to get away from Colorado, but so I could be closer to family. Knowing Karl and the things he wants to do, he gave me this opportunity and I'm just excited."

BRO: You seem to have a good time coaching – smiling, yelling, always talking. Is this a style of coaching you believe is more effective?

Bieniemy: "It is fun. I tried to instill fun to the kids as players. There's a time where you have to sit back, but you have to instill emotion into them. This is an emotional game, and I'm an emotional guy and I get heavily involved with what's going on. But I have a great deal of fun."

BRO: You won a couple of conference championships and a national championship as a player, so you have the trophies and the rings. Is this team good enough to win like you did?

Bieniemy: "We have a long way to go in a short period of time. I do believe this team could achieve great success, and they want to. The nucleus is here. But it isn't going to be given to you. You have to apply the little things each and every day. You know each day, you have to get a little bit better, better than the practice before. When you do that, that's when you get rewards, because when you do the little things, great things come in the end."

BRO: You're a SoCal kid, grew up near the Rose Bowl, but you left L.A. to go to Colorado. Now you're back and get to coach in the Rose Bowl. For an L.A. kid, it's got to be pretty exciting.

Bieniemy: "It's the most historical stadium in all of college football, and now I get to take the field, putting UCLA coaching gear on and take the field as a Bruin. It feels great to be a Bruin, it feels great."

BRO: Having Coach (Jon) Embree coming to UCLA with you had to have made the transition easier.

Bieniemy: Oh yeah. You know, I've known Karl for years, and it felt good that knowing what Karl wanted to do, he wanted me to be along for it. And Embree and I go way back to Colorado, him being a Buff and me being a Buff, and our friendship has been tight since 1986."

BRO: Do you have a special bond with Wesley Walker, a Bishop Amat guy like yourself?

Bieniemy: "Oh yeah, us Lancers have to stay together!"

BRO: Do you ever watch ESPN Classic and say "Man, I was fun to watch"? Or do you play as yourself on Playstation 2?

Bieniemy: "I really haven't had a chance to catch to many Classic games of myself. But what's enjoyable for me, is that some of the kids get to watch it, and they tell me certain things, like ‘Coach, I didn't realize you were pretty fast' or ‘Coach, I didn't realize you had moves,' but it feels good to get those compliments. But I want them to achieve the same success. I want to turn on ESPN Classic, 5 to 10 years from now and see them doing the same thing."


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