Offensive Line is Improving

Broncos Illustrated sat down with Western Michigan's offensive line coach to discuss this year's situation with the offensive line. Bronco fans will be pleasantly surprised at the performance and attitude of this group of young student athletes. Coach Cummings talked about the speed, strength and experience of this season's line. He also talked about the leadership, goals and objectives as well as the lack of recognition the Broncos offensive line gets.

Could you go ahead and give me an overall assessment right now of where you see the offensive line is at?

"I think that at this time our offensive line is working hard. When you say that are you talking about in terms of where they are or in terms of relative to last year to this spring to the group that was going to becoming in last year at this time?"


If you look at last year and you guys lost four starters this season. You got Kyle Ras returning as a starter, you are starting four new people who have limited experience and all these other national publications are kind of questioning the offensive line. So, if you compare it to last year talk about the whole cohesiveness of the line, where they're at physically and mentally and how you feel that they are compared to last season.

"Well, let's talk in terms of what people would say about this. Probably justified what anybody would print or show concern over this offensive line. It's based basically on experience. The thing that happens every year is there's going to be a position on your football team that doesn't have experience. The issue is when it's five guys that don't have experience or four to five that don't have experience it causes people concern. It's very interesting that you'll see that a tailback won't have experience but he's okay because there's only one of them and he's got great talent. I think we need to look at this offensive line that way. This group has good potential. Now primarily what happens to that potential is their work ethic and the coaching staff working with them. But there's not a player that we have that played last year; there's not a guy that has limited experience that is not a good football player. We didn't play guys last year as a charity. We played extra players. We played nine offensive linemen last year because they were good enough to play and they were good enough to win for us. Now whether or not we won the game isn't the issue with that. The issue is were they good enough to compete and win football games? So that the big issue for us and I think that's something that I always look for. It's a great challenge for us that we're questioned. It's a great challenge and we know we got to get the experience and get it fast. But the group is working hard and they are here this summer. I mean primarily we've got every guy here and they're working together. The team lifts and runs together and they work with the strength coach. Of course I can't go see any of that so I don't know exactly how that goes. But just in terms of guys stopping in to visit with me in the morning and just talking about things, that's going very well. This group compared to last year's group at this time is not as, doesn't have as much football intelligence as that last group did but it may have more potential athletically. In fact it does, it does have more potential athletically than that group. That was a good tough bunch of guys that had some experience. But let's go back and talk about last year's group. You know last year's group; they had a right tackle who was a senior that had not had much experience. Our left guard was a senior that had little experience. Now the right guard and center had had experience and our left tackle was Kyle Ras last year who had no experience but that played fairly well and many would say he came out maybe being the best offensive lineman that we played last year. So we look at everything when we're doing, when we're evaluating this group. We understand there's lack of experience. But when we look back and we say, "if we had a bunch of Kyle Ras' in there" and everybody knowing what Kyle Ras can do now if that had been a year ago and you knew what he could do, that wouldn't have been an issue at all. We feel comfortable with the guys that are coming back and their ability to work and their toughness. I mean the one thing that we've seen here is that Bob Vezeau does a great job with our players in the weight room and these guys want to lift. The thing that's going to be the biggest problem for our offensive line as parents is their clothing because they're getting bigger. They're not getting fat. You saw Dominic Moran in here. Dominic Moran, that's three hundred pounds right there and he looks like he's two hundred and forty pounds. He's sleek, he's slim, and he's really strong. We break down into power ratios; he's got a great power ratio right now in terms of power lifts. He is close to cleaning three hundred pounds and that's a redshirt freshman right there. He's got the kind of numbers that the seniors had last year. We've got guys that have got good potential, they have great work ethics and it's going to turn around. It's going to be a good group and then the young guys that we signed this year. I know you're not asking about those guys but you're talking about guys who, Steve Douglas is a power lifter. Steve Douglas can squat almost seven hundred pounds parallel. So, I mean those are all guys that we've got going. So I know we are one of those groups where yeah you got to question. You don't have experience that's right. What are we going to do about it? Well these guys are working hard. They realize it and it kind of, it pisses them off. They know about it."


It gives them some motivation. I was going to ask about the guys you signed. First of all I want to ask you about, going back to the movies. The movie Rocky III, "The Eye of the Tiger," you hear that a lot in sports where athletes and coaches get a certain look in their eye, a look that they are not going to be denied. The situation that you just mentioned where these guys aren't happy with the kind of write ups they are getting where they are being questioned to how well they are going to perform in the 2003 season. Is that going to help them? Or has that helped them develop a determined look in their face to get the job done?

"I don't know if they know all that's being written about them. Because I don't know exactly all of what they read and what they know. I do know they know what I tell them and I think that is a motivator. I believe that that's a motivator because I think these guys don't like. Let me rephrase that. They like being challenged. They don't like it when it seems to be a negative. They accept the challenge. As I put that to them they see it as a challenge and they prefer to respond to that challenge. I don't know all of what they write. I will make the point to them that you don't have any experience, no one believes that you can get this job done. If I was our first opponent or second opponent I'd say, "hey, this is how we beat this team." Those are things I put to them and I don't necessarily go out there and "did you read that Sporting News said this?" Those are things that I think if they read enough of that they're smart enough guys. This is true, they're smart enough to say "those guys don't know anything." You know and they may not. But the fact that we can look at it from an opponents view and say this is what we would do. Now if we faced a team that had an all new defensive lineman and linebackers, that might be our approach. So we understand how we're seen. I'm not sure about all of the articles that they read. I would hope that if they read an article they would see it the same way that we challenge them with their lack of experience."


Talk a little bit about the recruiting. You guys signed some offensive linemen and also is it a goal of the team to consistently sign a certain amount, say three or four offensive linemen a year, to keep that coming into the system?

"Yeah, we signed three guys. We signed Robbie Krutilla, Steve Douglas and Chris Bartula. There's actually some of those defensive linemen I wouldn't mind having either. But, I know that's not going to happen. They're good enough to play either side. Those three players are doing extremely well. I will give you a quick update on those guys. They were all here for the spring game. I have seen them off campus during May evaluations. We're allowed to go off campus and visit with them and I did and all are looking great, solid players, real strong, eager to go. In terms of our signings every year, we basically operate in a type of a matrix where we will always carry a specific number of offensive linemen and that dictates the number that we will recruit for that year. So, for example, if we lose four linemen then we go out to get four linemen unless we were one over the matrix. To make it real simple for everybody, if we lose a couple we got to get a couple back and that's how we have to do it so we can keep our numbers up so that we can continually run with approximately three full units of offensive linemen. That's generally what we have and maybe a couple more."


Are any of these guys going to see some playing time this year or are you guy's going to go ahead and redshirt them?

"That's tough. It's very difficult to play offensive linemen as freshmen, but it's been done. I don't think I can say right now. That's a decision that Coach Darnell makes and that's really based upon their performance and their ability to letter and help our football team. If they can't do that there is no sense in playing them. I think you could take a freshman and play him in any position but to waste a year of his eligibility and not allow him the opportunity to letter. Or in other words allow him the opportunity to help our football team enough to help it be productive I don't think that's possible. But I will tell you that the ability of the guys that we signed is certainly enough to play the first year. Now will it be enough to go ahead and get reps away from a guy who's been here a couple years? I don't know that. Generally with the offensive line it becomes a mental thing and I would say certainly with this group it is going to be a mental thing with them. Physically they are as good as they come, but mentally the change in defenses, the blitzes, the protection, all the things that we put into a multiple offense. We throw so much at them that's the part where they break down. So, they can certainly do it physically where people can actually see these guys."


Who's the strongest guy on the offensive line right now and how much can he lift?

"Well, there's a number of lifts that we do and it's kind of spread out. But we talk about is power ratio. So the strongest guy in terms of power ratio is actually our center, Chuck Missant. Power ratio is your strength relative to your body weight and he's strong. He's strong, he's fast, got good hands. But, these other guys, I was just talking to another player here and you saw him and that's what we were talking about. Charles has the greatest power ratio but there are a couple lifts where our redshirt freshmen are ahead of him. So, that's overall strength to relative body weight is what we are talking about. But, these freshmen are pretty strong. We have a number of players that are over four hundred pound bench presses, I mean that's pretty standard and our other standard for these guys is a five hundred pound squat. That's kind of our standard where we want to be. Pretty much everybody is right there."


So, who's the fastest guy?

"I don't know. I don't know who's the fastest offensive lineman. Here's my term of what's the fastest; I want to see how fast a guy can get off, what we call initial quickness, in other words from snap to contact. How fast they get off the ball and get up into somebody's face and start knocking them around. Shoot, Chuck Missant he's pretty quick in there. Stith, Moran, Wangerin; Wangerin will get off the ball now, he'll knock you around. Those are guys that come to mind right away. That's one thing that we work a lot on. We talk about what these guys work on. We work a lot of lower body that helps us with initial quickness and power. That's a big emphasis for us. That's not something necessarily timed but that's something that's kind of subjective but it is also objective. You can stand there and see who gets off the ball the fastest and our guys are pretty good right there. Our forty times, they're okay. They're okay for three hundred-pound guys. But forty times are important because that's a standard of measure in football. But really for offensive lineman you're looking for a ten-yard and a twenty-yard. I know that Bob hasn't done those yet, so we'll wait to see on those."


Last year the line led the MAC is sacks allowed. What are you guys working on to correct that, doing to correct that and do you see that as something that's going to change this season with this group of guys?

"What we're doing to correct that, I mean a sack is not necessarily an offensive line problem. It is part of an offensive line. I mean there are a lot of things involved in a sack. It starts with the offensive line; there's no question. I'm not trying to deflect anything or place blame, but the reason I'm saying this is it's an offensive problem. Because the receivers have to get off the coverage, they have to run the right route, the backs have to block, the quarterback has got to get rid of the ball, he's got to look for his reads and so forth. But, we've got to do a better job of blocking guys. So, in terms of what we have done to that is we've worked a lot of schemes that we used last year. We've given them more reps to make ourselves better. We've worked on more technique and what we've also done a good job of is being able to get rid of the ball. Quarterback, last year we played two quarterbacks. Well that may happen again but the quarterbacks are more comfortable with the system in getting rid of the ball. Our backs will do a better job of blocking. Our guys will have to work harder and get their blocks. We did lead that; we throw the ball an awful lot too. So we recognize as an offensive staff we can throw the ball and you got to recognize that is an inherit risk. So how do we get rid of the ball faster? How do we take advantage of what someone is doing to try and sack us? We put a lot of time into that this spring, working on blitzes and for our offensive line it's a lot of technique. It's not as though when we give up a sack it's not generally, has not been and was not last year, it was generally not a missed assignment, and we didn't know who to block. There was time it was a physical assignment so that in a lot of ways is a positive because we know we can work on that. We can work on that without being with the coach and that's why it's a positive. They can go out there and work with our strength coach on agility, change of direction, strength and so forth. They know they are working on getting better at blocking the guy that may have beaten them on a physical mistake last year, or maybe over powered them or change of direction or whatever the case may be. Where if it was an assignment all the time then it's a problem because we've got to meet with them more and we're not allowed to do that over the summer. So those are the positive things. I would think that if you look at what we did this spring relative to the spring prior, we're better at those protection issues that caused us problems in the fall. There's some inherit things that happened there. I think a lot of it has to do with the athleticism of our offensive line. They're better, they're getting stronger, and they understand what we're doing. Our quarterbacks, honestly our quarterbacks are doing a great job and they did in the spring. Our receivers do a great job in recognizing coverage. Our backs are better at blocking. For us it's a combination, it's an overall big thing. But we are aware of that and that really bothers our offensive line that that took place and a big reason is because whether it's warranted or not that's their problem. It's one of those things. If the quarterback didn't throw the ball but was supposed to and that you got him sacked, that's still their sack and that bothers them. They want to be able to take care of it all. So, I don't know what happened with that."


The fact that using the two quarterbacks; one who has a great arm, maybe was a little bit either slow on making the right reads or just zeroing in on one receiver. The other one who had the knowledge of the system, was able to make good decisions but doesn't necessarily have the arm strength. Do you think that was somewhat of a factor last season?

"I think all those things were factors. I don't know about your characterization of good arm strength, doesn't understand, the other guy good understanding, doesn't have arm strength. I don't know if that's necessarily the case. What I do know as a combination of things that could contribute. I mean, why did the, if you were to say for example and I don't subscribe to this necessarily but if the quarterback made the wrong read did he do that because the right tackle didn't do a good job and he was pressured into making a quick read? Those things were all combination. That's my point. Is that the combination of things put together is what we feel contributed to the problem and by those guys, all those guys coming back to play in the skill positions and having good offensive linemen that understand the system and probably have better athleticism. I think that's the answer. We really feel that that's the answer in there. So, you can say that we had a guy that understands the system but doesn't have the arm strength. Maybe he doesn't have the arm strength because he's got to throw it to fast because we're not doing a good job. That's the point. The point is it's a team thing and we all subscribe to that, all the coaches do and the players. They know they got to help each other out. You know, when we play a team that's got a great defensive line and they're giving us a hard time on the pass rush, we got to do a good job on the outside. When we got a team that has real good secondary coverage and linebackers, we've got to do a better job of giving the quarterback time to find that guy open by protecting better and we know that. That's a week to week thing. We'd like it all to line up and be able to give the quarterback five seconds but you can't do that now in the league and we play a pretty high level of ball here and you can't do that. But it's a combination, we've got to do a better job of systematically protecting the quarterback by routes, reads and of course the offensive line. So I mean that's really what it is, it's a combination of things. You put those things all together and it's not good. Now that's why we go back to the offensive line. Why is it good that we've got guys who play? Well they might have limited experience, but they, the linemen that we play this year had more experience playing limited than two, three of our starters last year who had actually been in the program three years or more. Believe that. I mean think about that. When you start breaking those down you say well Fred McCants. Yeah, Fred McCants was here for two years but hadn't played except on PT and field goals. Chris Montgomery had been here for three years and played very sporadically and with a guard and his experience came to play at center. Kyle Ras, a third year player, first time he ever played. Now we put in all these other guys we got Walter Stith who has a ton of snaps, Mark Ottney has got a ton of snaps, Kyle Ras of course. Chuck played all of the time you know on special teams and so forth and you got a good group in there. You've got Chad Wangerin who played, so we actually have more experience there than we had last year but it doesn't come out that way. I don't know if that's really a big issue anyway. But, I look for the positives in all of this and think; well you have a guy like Chad Munson last year great… he's like playing a freshman, a first year player. That's what happened. None of these guys have had a real chance to feel comfortable. It's like any job that you do. Any job that you do, you get confidence by doing the same things over and over again and we've gotten that. I'll tell you, a real big positive for us is because those players have played, there's a Walter Stith that can go in there or Chad Wangerin. They are better coaches, as coaches at practice because they play. Because when they are not taking a rep when their backup is in there or, you know, when Mark Ottney is not in the drill he's standing behind him. He can watch the guy that's in there and say, "hey, don't do it that way. I made that mistake. Here's the best thing to do; you've go to move your foot this way. Make sure you stay square." I think that's probably the case in all the positions where the quarterbacks can say that to one another. The running backs can critique each other. That's the positive of it all although it's certainly a problem but I think getting back to your question it's an overall system. It's a system issue but we've addressed that and we're moving forward."


You were talking about playing against really good defensive lines. UCF had a really good defensive line, Michigan had a good defensive line, and Virginia Tech had an awesome defensive line. When you take a look at that, how important is the tight end combination of an Anthony Kiner and a Tony Scheffler to the offensive line?

"It's invaluable. They're the extra offensive linemen and they won't want to hear that and so I hope you don't want to make a big deal about that. I mean they are, they're truly skilled position. But that's important to them. It's important that they be a blocker and they have really worked hard on that. Those guys have done a great job with Coach Kimbrough in the spring working on blocking. They love to work on catching the ball and in our offense they are going to catch the ball. But, that's a good point. They're important to the blocking but they are important to the blocking because they catch the ball as well. In our offense, these great D-Linemen they want to go get the quarterback but our tight end can stand there ready to catch the ball if they bring too many men. It works out anyway. If you got a great tight end that can be physical in my opinion he is the biggest threat in catching the ball because you got to shut him down. You got to shut the run down too. You're getting an extra guy in the box and that's opening up him to get loose. You know Kiner's shown a lot of the ability to do that. He's not the fastest guy now, but he can catch it. He can catch it and you better be ready to try and tackle him now because he's, I don't know what does he weigh three hundred and fifty pounds? I don't know what the guy weighs."


According to the Spring Prospectus, two eighty.

"He's two eighty, okay so he can come over and play with me."


I tell you what, Kiner to me he's a big bruiser of the bunch and Scheffler he's a guy that knows where the first down marker is. He's just as big a bruiser as Kiner is but to me he also has some of the best hands on the team.

"Absolutely. He's like a wide receiver that's got a big body inside that can block. But how about this guy let's talk about Oleson though. We moved Oleson over there in the spring and Oleson will knock you around now. Oleson will hit you. So, you know his ball skills the only reason I can't speak to him is because I don't watch. I've seen in the games I see Kiner and I see Scheffler catch the ball but I don't do the drills with them so in practice I really can't watch the pass thrown. I really can't, I think he can catch the ball pretty good but I know he can block. I see him in an inside run and he will lay you out."


I want to talk about the positions and then I want to kind of take a look at a little bit towards the season. Start with left guard. You got Kyle Ras starting. Could you talk about him, D.J. Lockhart and anybody else you are going to be using at the left guard?

"Well Kyle Ras has done a good job of moving in from left tackle. He's a real good athlete, helps us inside, he's got good initial quickness, good lower body power, really intelligent, picks things up. He's a, tell him one time learner. You tell him once and he's got it, he understands it and he can go ahead and coach it with the other players. He's a really positive player to have in there. Pulls well, he'll come out of protection and pick up an extra blitzer and so forth. So we're real happy with the progress that he's made in there. D.J. Lockhart did not play last year. He was actually he was a little bit slowed up with a minor knee injury. So we just took the time to keep him off the field and let him get better. He's making good progress in there. He's got good toughness."


Are those mainly the two guys that are going to be playing that position?

"Yeah, I would think that but honestly what we will do is put the best five guys, best six guys, best seven guys whatever it happens to be in those spots. Dominic Moran is the guy who is right now listed as the number two left tackle. He could play left guard for us and has played left guard in practice. There's never been a problem. In fact, I told him one day to go over there and play right guard and it wasn't a problem. Dominic Moran he played left tackle but he's played right guard. We actually did in a team period I told him to get in a play center one time. He did fine. But that's the beauty of it everything we do kind of fits together. So that's probably it at left guard. I don't have a problem putting another guy in there if we had to because I think we are good enough there."


Let's go ahead and talk about left tackle.

"Okay, Stith and Moran and that's a pretty good ball. Dominic Moran is a good football player. Walter Stith is a good football player. How much does it say Walter Stith weighs?"


Two hundred thirty one.

"That's good, that should keep our competition off balance. As we know, Walt's much heavier than that. But, Walt's doing a good job, a great athlete. Dominic the same thing, both with good work ethic in there. I think we're fortunate to have both of them playing over there at left tackle. You know, we had, we can take Chad Wangerin move him over there I guess if we had to. He would do fine there, he's played, our tackles have played both sides. Just giving him a few reps, but that's pretty much what we have over there at left tackle."


Go to the right guard.

"Okay, well we've got Ottney and Ottney has really improved. Mark Ottney in football, in Western Michigan football and the Broncos and Western Michigan University is very, very important to Mark Ottney now. He is a very hard worker. He's a guy that you would like to give the term overachiever. But, it's not fair though because he's not overachieving. He's a great athlete and he's a great competitor, but that's his work ethic. I mean he's just, he's tough and he's really done a lot for us. Who do you think we should play behind Mark Ottney?"


There's not many choices. They've got C.R. Moultry listed behind him.

"Good choice isn't it?"


Yeah.

"C.R. Moultry is a really good football player. He has been slowed, but he had an ankle injury. Last year he made some great progress with it. When C.R. is in there the line of scrimmage will move. Yeah, he's real smart. We actually used C.R. a little bit playing center last year. Move him around, he can play both guards, knows every position. Probably will not play him at tackle right now but knows the tackle. He was really a converted tackle. We've been able to take some bigger guys and move them inside now at offensive guard so he's a good one in there. As I said, Dominic Moran has played there, he's kind of like the utility guy right now. I would like to play him all over the place but C.R. Moultry is fine."


Going back to Ottney for a second. Did he talk to you at all about how he felt after his brother announced that he wasn't going to be back with the team (Michigan State)?

"No. Over at Michigan State? No."


I know some Broncos fans were looking forward to that.

"What, the two brothers playing against each other?"


Yeah.

"I still think we are all looking forward to it, regardless if Mark's brother plays in it or not. Just personally I felt bad for him that he would lose his career and end early. Just because I think he's a great competitor."


So do you think he will be on the sidelines rooting for the Broncos for his brother or rooting for Michigan State?

"That's a good question for him. I couldn't answer that."


Real quick like, what's the status of Henry Moultry?

"Henry Moultry is fine. Henry is a backup. He's done a good job here. He's done everything we've asked for him. Definitely he's worked hard. I would see his role as a backup role."


Right tackle.

"Wangerin. I really like Wangerin. Wangerin has made a lot, a lot of progress converting from a defensive lineman. He really wants to be a good football player, puts a lot of time into it. I mean on that right side. I don't want to take anything away from the other guys but really him and Ottney over there their stuff is really important now. Chad Wangerin is a very unique player as well, he's got the farmer work ethic and that's a good thing. You know, get up early stay late, work hard, don't say anything and have a good time working hard. That's what he does. He's here all the time working. He's a real good leader for us on the offensive line, helps the young guys, not afraid to speak his mind and behind him we have Brandon James. Brandon James actually moved over. We played him a little at left guard last year and he's playing right tackle now. He's a good enough athlete to do that. He's certainly strong enough, moves very, very well and has a good grasp of the offense right now. He's the guy right now that needs a little bit more experience and his ability to get that experience will be based upon what he does this summer preparing for the fall."

And center.

"Well, you got Missant. Chuck Missant, he's a really good football player, extremely strong, tough, competitive, very proud of the university and the football program. He's a good leader for us. We've got a pretty good group in there. When you start running these guys down, player by player and really I guess when you know them like I know them I think there's a lot of potential right there. You got to get them all working together. Chuck is a guy that can get them all working together and the center for us is a real important position. I think the center is important for maybe every offense because he's in the middle, he's snapping the ball, and makes a lot of calls as the other players do. I'm happy to have Chuck where he is; he's a true worker. Joel Pfaendtner is a backup. He was actually, I believe he was a tackle in high school and he's played center. We converted him to a center and he's a good center. That position right there probably more than anyone is difficult physically because of the things that we and all offenses ask the center to do. I think that the officials have gotten to the point to where they allow the nose man to lineup, the defensive tackle to lineup offside. That's my joke with the players. He's very flexible, works hard, has a good work ethic and Joel Pfaendtner is a guy that's not afraid to make a mistake, to go full speed and make a mistake. He just continues to get better because of that. We're happy to have him where he is. Now we have played a lot of guys, we moved a lot of guys around to play center because we will not be without a center. All our centers and all our guys have snapped. They can all play center so when we work a drill in there we do it all the time now. That's not the position you want to get thrown to in the middle of a ball game if you have not taken any reps in practice but we got a lot of guys that can play that position."


Now when Missant was backup for Gasaway he was also the long snapper. Are you going to continue to use Missant as the long snapper or are you going to start working Joel into the long snapper duties?

"Joel Pfaendtner is not a top long snapper for us. I believe Charles Missant is. I believe he's the backup. I don't coach the special teams so I'm not exactly sure. But I know that Paul Tithof is the long snapper on punts, Scheffler is a long snapper on punts, Chuck is a long snapper on punts and then at PAT field goal we have Chuck and a number of other guys. One being John Vavrosky who's a walk-on from Portage here who's really good. Ottney does a PAT field goal, Kyle Ras, Ross Farren, so there's a number of guys we have in there that do those kinds of things. We like to have the wide body on the PAT and field goal for us so that would include Chuck and any of those other guys. But, when they are already on the field together you like to keep the center who he is. If he's on the field or you change this, change that instead of rather having a guard and moving him over and bringing another lineman in. I don't know if Chuck is the starting long snapper on the punt. He may have been last year, but I'm not sure on that you have to ask Wally."


Talk about John Vavrosky for a little bit.

"John Vavrosky is a walk on from Portage Northern. He works hard, takes care of his business, he is not a loud guy, and he just comes to work and does what he's suppose to do. He has expressed an interest in snapping on the PAT field goal and punt and came in there and has worked very, very hard on that. He's worked on our scout team last year and gave good looks all the time. He has great technique. The downside on John, Johnny V., that's what we call him, Johnny V., is he's not a big guy. His size, he's undersized. The upside on Johnny V., great worker, tough, gets along well with everybody and he's tough. I mean I really like him. He's been a great addition to the offensive line. Well liked by the guys."


So would you say he would be the offensive version of a Jason Feldpausch?
"No."

Not very big he redshirts.

"That's not fair because Feldpausch to me is a guy who's been on the field and proven himself and done all those things. John Vavrosky is a true freshman that has played on the scout team, so that's not fair right now and John will have a long way to go in terms of size breaking into the lineup that we have. But I would say that in terms of what do you think of him, do you like him? Absolutely comparing him to Feldpausch would probably not do Jason Feldpausch right. That's not fair to him."

I agree with that. I wasn't meaning to make a bad comparison or anything like that. But just looking at how they both started, Jason walked on and worked his way onto the starting defense and defensive MVP and it's strange listening to you talk about John, kind of a similar start for him.

"Well, if you want to make a comparison, actually the comparison is Missant. Missant is a walk on. I don't know if you knew that. He's a walk on. Charles Missant walked on from Grosse Point High School, came here, played tight end I understand, played a couple of different spots, they switched him over to center, he's home."

A good walk on.

"Yeah, that's a good walk on."

Mike McCord.

"Mike McCord, he did a good job for us last year in the backup and he had knee surgery this winter and it wasn't like a reconstruction. It was a knee problem, I can't tell you what it was. But he's responded to that. He's stronger than ever, stronger than ever in two ways. Because he couldn't lift with his lower body for a period of time, he gained more strength in his upper body than he's ever had and he is now percentage wise even after surgery he's stronger in his lower body than he's ever been in his life. So we look for Mike to be the guy, I mean we talked about all these positions and he never came up because he's not on the spring prospectus. But, I think my comment was we could play a couple of guys there, he's that guy. Where's Mike McCord play? I don't know, but I know that he can play. I know that Mike McCord can play. He played against Northern Illinois, he did a pretty good job last year. He kind of got thrown into the mix. We had an offensive guard go down at Bowling Green. He was the first guy we put in the game. Put him in right away didn't even think twice about it and he's a tackle. So we have a lot of confidence in him and we like his abilities. He's a really good athlete. Probably needed to work on his lower body more than anything else. He had the knee injury and he's done better on that. So, he's been here all the time during the summer. From what I understand he's working very hard. Because I can't go to a practice so I would never be there."


With all that said and done, who would the leaders on the offensive line be? The vocal leader, the lead by example player and the one player that is basically able to take is words and his actions and put them all into one package and all the other guys just fall in line with that person?

"Missant, Ottney, Wangerin. Now, spread them down like Ottney, Ottney just by work ethic. Wangerin tells people and he does it. And Chuck, both as well. Those are the guys. If there was somebody that were going to have to grab somebody by the shirt collar and tell him to get it right it would be one of those three guys. The work ethic by the other guys, we evaluate our players in the spring after everything. There's a character trait that inspires others. I believe it's any football player but as offensive linemen we believe you have to evaluate "do you inspire others?" You can inspire others by what you say or what you do with ball. We've got a bunch of guys that inspire others by what they do. They show up, they work hard, they do what they're suppose to do, they take care of business, they play hard, they work hard. Then we got those three guys that will do all those. Now Mark Ottney is probably not as vocal right now, but he will express himself. Those other two guys, those two seniors that we talked about, they'll do both. They'll tell you. So, that's what we expect. There's no lock on leadership here just because you're a senior you have to be a leader or that you have to lead because you're a senior. But it seemed to work out that way and they've really taken a lot of ownership in the football team especially the group with the offensive line because they want it done right."


I've talked to Ottney a couple of times and he just seems to go about his business. He's rather quiet but you watch him on the field and he's one of those guys that doesn't back down and he's the first one in there.

"That's it. The thing we need to remember is we've got a lot of guys on this offensive line that are very proud. Mark is one of them. He's very proud of the university, Bronco football program, representing the university and Mark is a good ambassador in those terms. He'll show you he's a good example. If you had to bring someone down to practice, a young high school football player, a young offensive lineman and say, "go watch sixty one. Go watch Mark Ottney. Go see what he does and just be that kind of guy." I think he would be all right. Because he works hard, he takes his reps, he hustles and it's really, really important to him. What else can you ask for? I mean he takes care of his business off the field and shows a lot of pride in the program."


You wouldn't happen to know what the average GPA for your guys is would you?

"I think it's a four O. I don't. I just remember that we had, I believe it was, we had sixty some guys and there was over thirty of them that had three O's or better, but I don't know exactly where the offensive line is right there. But, we're pretty strong academically I can tell you that."


Talk about yourself a little bit. You're heading into your second season with the Broncos. Talk about your experience from last season and how you feel now heading into the two thousand three season.

"Well, I think the experience of last season where I certainly enjoyed every second of my time it was a disappointing season. I felt like the season and the way it went and losing those close games I felt a real sense of responsibility. I think when those games get that close you really go back and look at yourself and say "what could you have done just a little bit different?" I think as coaches we do that, we want to see, "what could I have done?" You know it comes down to one play at the end and I think that's what we all tend to look at. I think we all do that as coaches, we look back and say, "what could I have done better?" We have done that. I have done that. We tried to look at the things we did and I guess the fortunate aspect of it all is that when we finished and we did our analysis on what we did and how we coached it, we came up and said we did like what we're doing. We are doing it the right way. We just need to come more proficient at it. This is a great place to coach. It's got great fan support, the administration here is tremendous, and we got great student athletes here. I mean how about just the students? You show up here on Saturday, you come out for the game I wouldn't want to be an opponent here. They give the opponent all kinds of hell before the game. This is a great place to coach. It's a great place to recruit to. We have all to facilities that you could want here. When the high school players come on campus from wherever they happen to be they're really, really impressed. I can tell you this, I think players on campus from this spring during spring practice ‘til now, and we've had a couple from California, Pennsylvania, an odd number from Illinois and Indiana. But just those areas that I would be involved in that have all said that the schools they have visited we have as good of facilities as anybody. So, that's a tremendous commitment. I work for a great guy who lets you coach. It's been a great experience but in terms of looking forward to next year, there are a lot of things that we want to get done. We're really looking forward to it and putting in the extra time and doing what it takes to get over that hump I guess is a way of putting it and making this a really, really good football team and getting the things that we are looking for. Was it four teams by five points or five games by four points?"


Four games by four points. Five games in between four and ten points.

"You look at that and ultimately the players have to execute but we as coaches we look at that and we want to know what we can do to prepare the players better. The difficult part of it is you got a lot of time right now during the summer but you're not allowed to work with the players. So, we had to do a lot of self study and before spring practice started so that we could go ahead and do the things that would allow us to be successful that could carry through into the fall. I think we have done a lot of good things here. I have good confidence in the guys I have worked with. We've got a great staff, got a great offensive staff, a great defensive staff. So I really enjoy my time here. It's a great place to coach."


Lets talk a little bit about the schedule this season. Last season, your first season, had Michigan, Purdue, Virginia Tech as out-of-conference schedule. This year most people will think it's a little bit better but it seems to me it's right along the same lines as last year. You have Michigan State, Virginia, University of Connecticut, CommUniverCity against a tough one-double A team in William and Mary. Talk about the preparation of the line towards the games against those teams that have some really good defenses, including the Marshall game too.

"You have to say the reason you want to coach in a place like this is because of the schedule and because of the competition. There are a lot of schools that we play against but won't play. We look at this and say, "ah it's a little bit easier this year." Where if you go to a lot of schools and you look at that and go, "oh my gosh, look at that tough schedule." So that just shows you the level, the expectations of you. That's why it's a great place to be. But in terms of those teams we really don't prepare and different. I mean we have a game plan, we install the game plan, we recognize that they have really good football players and we really respect their football program and we got those out-of-conference opponents. But, truthfully we have teams in our conference that we have to respect, as much because of the way they will come after the Broncos. So, what we will do a lot differently and honestly I can only tell you right now about Michigan State. In terms of preparation, because that's our first game and then we play William and Mary in the second game and after that the schedule just kind of goes away. That's no disrespect to anybody we play after that but I think as a coach that's kind of how you have to focus it. We look at that one game at a time. Now there are things that those teams do defensively that are unique that we change and we have to maybe adjust our blocking schemes for. But, really that's what we do, we adjust our blocking schemes. We do what we do. We don't change things. We might have a little wrinkle each week but our players know what we do and they know how to execute it. We just have to do a better job of executing and using the right technique and getting to the right place at the right time and those things work themselves out. When we have a schedule that includes schools such as Michigan State and Connecticut and Virginia where does the line blur between them and a Marshall and Northern Illinois and a Bowling Green? If you look back you go, "gee, Toledo, yeah." I mean, for crying out loud where does the line blur? What should you differently? The answer is Coach Darnell has got a plan. This is the plan. This is what we are going to do and this is how we do it and just make it so that the players can understand it and execute at the highest level with the most amount of effort. That's what we do. So, while we get excited about what would be maybe what some would think is a bigger game, it's like that every week. But we are happy to play those teams. We love to really play the toughest competition that we can have. Our players enjoy the competition. They love to play the game."


We all know that Coach Darnell has said that if you want to be one of the big boys, to be able to beat them you've got to play them. From the fans aspect, what can they look forward to, out of the offensive line this year?

"I guarantee that we will have five guys on the field all of the time. How's that for a guarantee? You know, hard work, great effort, determination, I think that's what they can look forward to and that's what they want. You start thinking about the offensive line, what do you notice about the offensive line as a fan? I don't know because I'm not a fan. We're are going to work hard. They can look forward to that we will work hard, we will be tough, we will be physical."


It seems like the offensive line, when they do good nobody notices them, but as soon as they start allowing sacks, things start going wrong they are the first one's that are criticized. How does that set with the guys and is it a motivating factor for them?

"In terms of what? Motivating in that they don't get noticed or that they get blamed if it's wrong?"

When they do well very few people notice.

"Offensive lineman are intrinsically motivated. They do what they do because they love to do it and to them they get their acknowledgement and they get their feelings of accomplishment when the running back goes into the endzone. When the quarterback throws a pass, when there is no one touching the quarterback and when they don't get noticed. They are those kind of people and we know that there are those kind of people out there and that's who they are. That's why you look at them and we challenge them and say "hey, people don't think you're very good, you don't have any experience and they want to do well to help the others. That's just the kind of people that they are. You get guys like that with big bodies; you're doing the right thing. So, I don't think they have a problem with it. They get recognized. Our quarterbacks are the first guys to tell them they did a great job of protecting, the first guys. I mean we have it where we're in a scrimmage and the quarterback that's not in the scrimmage at the time will yell to the offensive line and tell them they did a great job. The running back will run right to them and tell them great job blocking. The receivers, they recognize that. That's what they look for and that's enough for them and that's all that any of us want. That's fine. We're a team. When things go like that we're turn in to one another and that's what people don't see that but they get their recognition, to be recognized by their teammates is probably the highest compliment for an offensive line. To be recognized and honestly those guys probably don't take compliments very well. They don't know how to do it. That's fine. They're embarrassed by being complimented they don't know what to say. If you ask them, "tell us, who's working the hardest," they will never say themselves. They're just humble; they are those types of human beings. We're fortunate that way. It's kind of the way of the nature of the beast I guess is the best way of putting it."


Last season he was one of the quietest guys on the team but towards the end of last season he started talking a little bit more. Phil Reed seems to be, he's one of those guys that will during the post game press conference the first thing he will start talking about is how good of a job the offensive line did.

"We would love to have Phil Reed as an offensive lineman. Phil Reed is like an offensive lineman. So, if you know a little bit about him, that if he's humble, gives credit to everybody else, kind of almost embarrassed to take a compliment. There is actually a lot more about this football team because we've got a lot more guys like Phil Reed and about the way I described the offensive line and anybody else. We don't have a lot of showboating; we don't have a lot of guys doing it for "me" they want to do it for us."

One last question. What are your goals for your guys this year?

"Be a better offensive line than last year. There are more specifics than that but I mean truth our number one goal is to win. That's it but that's an easy one. What's your goal? We want to be better than last year and we want to do every thing we can and be better than last year. We could throw out a million goals and say we are going to do this, we are going to do that and we may do that in house but we need to be better than we were last year. We're on our way."

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