Interview: DL Coach Thurmond Moore

The new defensive line coach, <b>Thurmond Moore</b>, talks about his defensive line philosophy, which is all about rushing the passer. He also talks about some players he thinks have a chance to be good...

Thurmond Moore is the new defensive line coach at UCLA.  Moore, 49, comes to UCLA from being the defensive coordinator at Buffalo. He has a history with both defensive coordinator Larry Kerr and Head Coach Karl Dorrell.

He answered a few questions for us.

What was the process of you coming to UCLA?

"In mid-February, I went home for lunchtime and got a call from a guy I'm very close to, which is Larry Kerr. He told me that Don (Johnson) had gotten an opportunity to go to the Bears. He didn't ask me if I was interested, just told me I had an interview. He didn't have to. With Karl (Dorrell) and Larry, we kind of go back a little bit. We coached at Northern Arizona together. Larry and I were at San Jose State. Actually I was a head coach in NFL Europe, and then I was hired to coach at Colorado State with Larry.  I recruited Los Angeles and California. So if I had some time I'd come by and see him and talk football. My family lives in Sacramento. So there was an interest there. So, yeah, he knew I was very excited about coming."

What kind of philosophies will you bring to coaching the defensive line?

"I've always been a guy that wants to attack up the field. I've always been blessed with good players. But I've spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to refine the art of pass rushing, getting to the quarterback. The first thing to start with that, as I told the players when I got here, is to trample the run on the way to the quarterback. Hopefully you'll see a lot more aggressive defensive line play.  Hopefully you'll see more tackles for losses. If you see that, you'll see that we're starting to get the pace of what I want to do. I want them to do what I call a stimulus response, not thinking but reacting. I want everything being done in a short, concise, timely manner, and then understanding what they see. Playing football, it's about doing it fast and as hard as you can, but not thinking."

It was written that you were considered a specialist at pass rush technique. Would you consider that your coaching forte?

"Absolutely, one of them. There is coaching lineage that it all starts with. John Teerlinck, who is with the Colts. Then Ron Marinelli. And I'm proud to say I'm part of the lineage. When I got started in this whole thing I studied with them. I told the kids that, as a pass rusher you're an artist. Good pass rushers have a certain mystique and understanding about it. And the funnest part of it is, if you have three guys who are up the field and hitting it and understanding it, it's a beatiful thing. I want Larry to be able to call coverage on third down and know it's going to be 1-2-3 and the ball better be out or the guy's going down with a sack. I believe that in time defensive linemen get the feel for it and it's fun. I tell them the only time you get noticed as a defensive lineman is when you're tackling a guy behind the line of scrimmage on a run or you sack the quarterback, so let's go out and get noticed and have some fun. What happens is that you want to try to get the offense into positions like second-and-13. And then it's third-and-nine and heck, you're either going to get a screen or a draw or most of the time a pass. And then what you work on comes to fruition and you can show your skills. I live it. I breathe it."

Have you had a chance to look at tape to watch the personnel you're working with?

"Actually I watched starting two years ago. I came by in the spring to see Larry and we watched some tape together. I recruited some guys out of Southern California, and I had a morning when it was a dead time, and I got here at about 5:00 in the morning and stayed to about noon and we watched tape. Larry and I talked during the season, we talked about the young guys. When I was at Tulsa, we played Oklahoma State the week after UCLA played them. So I got a chance to watch the guys. I really haven't studied them. But I know Larry's philosophy. I know Karl and Eric (Bieniemy) and Jon (Embree). Those guys are great recruiters so I knew there'd be a talent base here. And then to get an opportunity to coach them and instill a little bit of my philosophy and teach them. If you find a good coach, you find a good teacher. But teach them to be able to rush the passer. It will all work out for the best."

Do you think your coaching approach plugs in well to Kerr's defense?

"It's the third time we've done it together. That's why I was fortunate enough to get the call. He knows what I believe, and I know and believe in him. First thing, he's a great man. I know he's a great defensive coordinator. We've been in the package he's in together kind of since 1997.  It was at Northern Arizona, Colorado State and now here. So I've been lucky he's reached out three times, and I now get an opportunity to do work for Karl and him."

What players have impressed you so far?

"Bruce Davis is lightning. And William Snead. Both of those guys can run. Kevin Brown really is accelerating his learning curve. He's hitting some things and I'm thinking, 'Yeah, this is nice.' As a whole what has impressed me is that the first couple of days with the rain and with a new coach, it wasn't too my liking. I actually beat myself up pretty much last week. But I've picked it up a little bit and they've picked it up a little bit and are accepting it. I think we're starting to get a rhythm.  I think the best thing is they have good, young men here. There's great competition. It's a great setting. It's going to be fun. What I've told them already is, let's be great at what we do and have some fun. Then we'll get a chance as the years goes by to bring in the talent that we want to get in to be apart of our group."

How about Brigham Harwell?

"He has a chance. He's really done well. He struggled the first day with alignments and things. But he has stepped it up a little bit. I look at their eyes a lot, to see if the light goes on. The lights went on for him. I told Coach Dorrell we're not going to call ourselves d-linemen anymore, we're going to call ourselves rushmen. That's what I want those guys to do. I want us to be an elite group and be something special. He's starting to get that feel of being a rushman."

Is size a factor for players like Snead and Davis? Have they gotten bigger and do they need to get even bigger?

"They've gotten bigger. It's a factor. Where they would struggle is with the run.  But my philsophy, and once the guys understand, that if you get your elbows locked and your first step in the ground, it doesn't matter how big the guy is. You got him in a neutral position. I think doing some things technically with them, they're going to be okay. If they use their quickness to stop the guy before he gets going, then their size won't be a factor. At Colorado State we played with two players, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, who are now starting outside linebackers for the Steelers. And both those guys are the same size. The competition at Colorado State wasn't the same as here. But we did play Colorado and some other teams, Missouri in a bowl game. Those guys, with their quickness, were effective in stopping guys. They just have to keep developing. Spring time is the time to polish your skills. And Doc Kreis does a great job in the weight room to get those guys stronger. Next fall they'll be a really pleasant surprise. But one thing you can't coach is a guy's ability to run. That's why I like those guys. They can run."

How big are they right now?

"I think they're both about 245. I talked to Davis and that's what he said, and I think Snead's about the same. It could be hard for those guys to put on a lot of weight, but if they're 250, they have a chance. If they put on another 6, 8 or 10 pounds, you're putting it on a guy with some speed that can run."


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