Warpaint Illustrated: This year's draft was fairly top-heavy at defensive end. With numerous players available at the 20th pick, what made Tamba Hali the top guy on your board?
Bill Kuharich: "I think if you had split screens where you had all of the defensive ends and you could watch them simultaneously, you would just keep gravitating back to Tamba. His passion, high motor and work ethic draw you to him, but he's also been well-coached. If you watch his hand placement, if you watch his steps, if you watch his alignment, he does a lot of things right."
"He also has an acute understanding of the game and knows how to defeat blockers. You'll see him continually push an offensive lineman up field and then turn around and beat him underneath at the perfect time."
"In just watching him in game after game after game you see the same things out of him in the fourth quarter as you did in the first quarter. That tells you there is a consistency there, its not one good game, one average game and then one bad game."
Warpaint Illustrated: Although Hali was the Big 10's defensive lineman of the year he didn't produce some of the same staggering stats as defensive ends from other conferences. Obviously it didn't deter you from drafting him, but was it something that you found concerning at all?
Bill Kuharich: "In our opinion the other defensive ends that were in this draft, they weren't as consistent as Tamba. They might have had more flashy games, production-wise, but then you have to go back and consider who they're playing against. Who's trying to block them? If a guy gets three or four sacks in a game and then goes sackless for four games you have to go back and look at who they were lined up against. You might throw in a tape of the team they had their success against only to find they struggled in pass protection against everyone they faced."
"Everybody puts an emphasis on sacks, and that's great, but a lot of times a pressure is just as effective as a sack. If you force the quarterback to reload, to shuffle, or to throw off balance then you've done your job by disrupting the play. If you look at Tamba's production in that area he's near the top."
On Bernard Pollard
Warpaint Illustrated: I don't think anyone expected you guys to draft a safety on the first day of the draft. What led you take Bernard Pollard that early?
Bill Kuharich: "I think through the evaluation process Herm always associates playing great defense to being strong up the middle. That is where most of the game is played. Right now we have Sammy Knight and Greg Wesley, and Sammy's not getting any younger. Jerome Woods is towards the end and William Bartee has been bounced back and forth between corner. This is an area where we needed to get some youth and some depth."
Warpaint Illustrated: How soon can we expect to see Pollard on the field?
Bill Kuharich: "Wesley and Knight are the starters, but that doesn't mean Bernard can't get on the field in some packages and also be effective as a special teams guy. He has the ability to block kicks, and he's so big and strong that he can be utilized on every special teams unit. Punt protection, kickoff coverage, PAT block, field goal, the coaches will find a way to get him on the field."
Warpaint Illustrated: Pollard has a reputation as a big hitter but I was a little concerned about his range at 220 pounds. Does he have the speed to backpedal and turn from the hash and protect the deep edge of the field?
Bill Kuharich: "He has the ‘thumpability' of a John Lynch but he also has really good speed for his position. Running in the 4.5's is fast for a safety and he's actually faster than Dexter Jackson (starting free safety for the Buccaneers) was when he came out of college."
"When you watch Bernard on film you see his range, that's never been in question. Now you might have seen some situations where he was late getting there or he over played the play but that was more of a technique issue than a skill issue. Either he wasn't aligned properly or he didn't use the proper depth but those are things that can be corrected in the class room."
On Brodie Croyle
Warpaint Illustrated: Like your staff, I scout the SEC extensively so I was pretty familiar with Brodie Croyle when you drafted him. He never really caught my eye until the Senior Bowl so what did you guys see in him through his years at Alabama?
Bill Kuharich: "He manages the game well. He throws the ball away when he has to, he takes the sack when he has to, he runs when he has to, he just does a nice job overall managing the game."
"He also has a great knowledge of our offense because Mike Shula runs a very similar system at Alabama. That means less of a learning curve so mentally it will be easier for him to make the transition."
"Physically, he can do everything as well. He's a guy that can make all of the throws. He might not have a Brett Favre-type arm, but he's a good fit in this offense. There is a lot of play-action and a lot of bootlegs and he can do all of those things. He has a lot of Trent Green's qualities."
"He was an easy selection for us in the third. We didn't think he'd still be there. The only reason why we felt he was still there was due to his injury history. People were afraid his injuries might follow him to the NFL, but sometimes you get over the injuries. He might come in here and play ten years and never get hurt.
Editors Note: This article first appeared in our 2006 Summer Edition of Warpaint Illustrated the Magazine. We're breaking it down in five parts so everyone can enjoy the entire interview with Bill Kuharich.
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