Rob Phenicie on Craig Ochs: "Understands his role"

Craig Ochs is a different kind of cat. Most rookie quarterbacks would stay as far away from San Diego as possible if given the choice. In San Diego, he has to endure Camp Marty while battling for a roster spot on a depth chart that includes a franchise player, a player selected fourth overall in the draft a year ago and a player who was kept on the active roster as a fourth quarterback as the team feared losing him.

While others shied away, Craig Ochs enthusiastically jumped on board.

This is because he understands the game both on and off the field, and knows that money matters will eventually force a roster spot open in San Diego sooner rather than later.

That kind of foresight is typical of Ochs, at least according to Rob Phenicie, his former quarterbacks coach at the University of Montana.

"He understands his role," Phenicie said. "If he has to come in and be the third quarterback and work from there he'll have no problem with that. He has no illusions of grandeur. He's one of those guys who just needs to hang around for a few years and he'll be ready when he gets his chance."

Of course, Ochs has displayed the ability to do much more than hang around. In his final season at Montana, Ochs competed 68.6 percent of his passes for 3,804 yards and 33 touchdowns. When he wasn't passing the ball all over the field, he was terrifying his coaches by running with it.

"We had a hard time here of getting him to slide," recalled Phenicie. "He always wants to take guys on, which of course you can't do in the NFL because everyone's so much bigger."

Other than that minor qualm, Phenicie had nothing but praise for his former star pupil. He mentioned that Ochs was, "the absolute most coachable of all of the quarterbacks I have coached." Keep in mind that list includes passers for both the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Phenicie also admits that Ochs didn't need much coaching by the end, as his understanding of the offense and of the game was so utterly complete.

"He's extremely focused," explained Phenicie. "He's always coming up with suggestions and he has a good feel for the flow of the game. He plays with a real sense of urgency."

But while he plays with the reckless abandon of a teenager playing backyard ball, he also shows the maturity of a man well beyond his years.

"After our first season together, in the one-on-one meetings we have like all college teams do at the end of the year," remembered Phenicie, "I told him I wished my life could be more like his. He's a Christian, he's well socialized and he doesn't run with the wrong crowd."

Phenicie, who also coached Malcom Floyd during a stint at Wyoming, thinks Ochs has what it takes to stick around. He envisions Ochs and Floyd playing pitch and catch for the Chargers and lighting up scoreboards for years to come. It may not happen this season, but Phenicie firmly believes that Ochs has the ability, desire and dedication that make such a scenario come to fruition.

"He does a good job of what I call conducting the orchestra," Phenicie said.

After hearing everything else Phenicie said, Chargers fans should consider the news that Craig Ochs might just make it in San Diego music to their ears.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net


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