Offensive Line Coach Robbie Caldwell Speaks
Previously in parts one and two, six Vanderbilt offensive linemen voiced their opinions on blocking and getting more attention from the official statisticians.
Today in part three, Vanderbilt offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell addresses these issues plus a couple others.
Question: In your coaching experience, what type of block would you say today's players perform the best?
Pass blocking. When I first started coaching, it was the toughest block for the players to perfect. In those days, all high schools ran the football. Now it's just the opposite. Nowadays high school teams spread the field, and their linemen are in 2-point stances; pass blocking is usually the first thing they learn to do.
Question: Which blocking is the hardest for them to perfect?
If you had to pinpoint one particular block, it would be how to be physical out of a two-point stance. You've got to learn to sink your hips and step and not lose ground. That's been the hardest thing to teach so far for the linemen, but they are getting a good feel for it and are really making progress.
How does it feel to actually have a credible two-deep line on this year's team?
This is the first time we've really been two-deep. When we first came here, there were only nine linemen in the program and two of them were hurt. We played most of the season with seven people. As we developed some of the younger guys, we wound up losing a couple of them to tight end; it worked out they ended up being good tight ends. Right now is the first time in a fall camp that we've been able to work with two lines, and it's really been great. The A-group doesn't have to run every play now, and that's been a lot of fun. We've even been able to send Adam Smotherman to the other side of the line. He's a tremendous athlete. All the offensive linemen we signed are good athletes as far as being able to move and show their agility. That's been refreshing.
Question: Fans watching the game from the stands or on television always focus on the quarterback and the ball carrier or pass receiver instead of watching where the game is really decided--the control of the line of scrimmage. What advice can you give fans who would like to start watching the game where it counts most?
That's a great question. It may be too hard for a lot of people to concentrate on the entire line of scrimmage and enjoy the game. Mostly, they want to watch the ball. They look to see where it goes, what it does, if the quarterback throws it, or if the running back runs it. If they would pick one side only and watch a pair of offensive linemen such as the guard and tackle or the guard and center, they will get a better feel of what their job is all about. There are a lot of combination blocks going on—two blockers working together up to a second defender. Pick two blockers; the best way is to go to the strength of the formation, whether it's the side with a tight end or a two wide receiver side, and that will help them understand and get a better grasp.
Question: What does a 4-star high school lineman need to know and have to learn that he doesn't already know before he becomes a college lineman?
It changes from program to program, but the biggest thing most have to learn is the speed of the game; the defenders come at them a lot quicker. When they get to the next level, even though they were stars in high school, it's like they are starting on junior varsity all over again in some cases.
Question: What separates a high school line coach from a college line coach? Do they need to learn any additional aspects of the game?
Really, there isn't a great deal of difference between being a high school and a college coach. Both need to understand all the little pieces that you have to put together in the offensive line and know how that puzzle fits together. They really need to concentrate on technique. Footwork is a premium as well as the proper use of hands. There are a lot of tremendous coaches on the high school level that never leave and go on to college coaching. Really, you've got to be lucky and fortunate to make the jump. It's very hard to get in, because there's so few opportunities.
Question: Can an offensive line statistic be created to give more publicity to blockers—one that the general public could understand?
If all offensive line coaches scored their linemen the same way and posted those scores, that could work. We had a sports information director at Furman who really got in to line play. I graded the linemen on a 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 scale like a GPA. 2.0 was a premium—that grade was really good. A winning performance was 1.80 and up. The SID really got into that and publicized it. It caught on for awhile nationwide, and you'd see it advertised in some of the big national programs. That was back in the 1980's, and it was pretty neat. Maybe one day that will come around again for us.