Q&A with Dick LeBeau

<b> What do you like about Bryant McFadden?</b> <br>I like this young man a lot. He's got a lot of athleticism. He plays the run real well. He's almost 6-foot and he weighs 190 and he's run under 4.5 so those are good numbers.

He played at a winning program, a program I have a lot of respect for and had some good success with players from there. You know, going into drafts you kind of identify people you think would fit well in your organization and in your scheme of things and he was one of the guys we thought would be a good player for us to have to work with, so we were very thankful when it in fact played out that we got him.

Darren Perry said he's tough and good in run support. Isn't that what you would like from your corners in your system?
Yeah, we don't want any of those guys that say 'we're just cover guys.' We're not interested in those guys.

Isn't this the era, though, of the cover guy with the new enforcement of the rules?
Yeah and it's also the era of the fired defensive coordinator if your cover guy won't tackle anyone.

Didn't you do pretty well with cover guys like Willie Williams and Deshea Townsend last year?
I think both of those corners have proven that they'll get out there and get on the ground with you, too, and I think pound for pound Willie Williams is one of the toughest guys on the team. We're not saying that at 5-foot-9, 183 pounds you're going to go out there and smoke the Bus, but you're going to get him on the ground. That's all we're talking about here. Some guys will tell you 'no, I'm paid to cover,' and just stay close to the receiver and that's not the guy we're looking for.

When you evaluate cornerbacks, do you look less at scheme and more at their hips, feet and physical things because you figure you're going to teach him your scheme when you get here?
Actually it's become easier to evaluate these guys over the years because when I first started coaching, probably in the Big 10 and Southwest and many of the major football conferences of our land, they probably ran the football 65 to 70 percent of the time. You just didn't see these guys in space making the kind of plays that you're going to ask them to make playing up here in the National Football League where they throw the football 65 percent of the time. But today's game in college, you're liable to find more no-backfield, no-huddle, empties, spread, three- and four- and five-receiver guys then you are the old masked (?) formations. Now there's still some of it around, but they throw the ball more. And if you go to high-school games, you're likely to see it in the air 40 times a game. So the kids around the country are throwing the ball more, and it forces the defenders to have to cover more space and to get in those space situations more often, which, as a coach who's trying to analyze, you get to see these guys in these type of situations so many more times. It's still an inexact science but I think it's easier to evaluate whether a guy's going to have a chance to compete at this level athletically. You still would like to know what's inside that young man because it's going to come down to that in the fourth quarter, when you're three behind or three up and the other team's got the ball and you've got to get it back. It's what's inside the player that matters more. They have to be athletic to get to the fourth quarter, and it's easier to see that in players.

With three young corners now, where do you see McFadden playing this year?
Well, you know, Ricardo (Colclough) came in and he contributed right away for us very early on. There's an opportunity in today's game for these young men to come out and actually get on the field. Ideally, we've got our starting corners in place, so we'll see how that plays out, but the opponent's going to put four and five wide receivers out there a lot of times, and a lot of times, in today's game, they're going to do it on first and second down. You must have people that can go out and match up with these guys, and that's where a Bryant and Ricardo and those guys, even as young players, can really help you defensively just matching up athletically with the skill people that the other people put on the field. So I think he'll be able to fill that role. Watching him play, he's very athletic, can get in and out of cuts. I like his discipline in his coverage and we'll just see how he competes with the other guys. But he's shown, to this level, that he's a competitor. If you've played at Florida State, you've met some pretty strong competition to get on the field there. So we like that about this young man, but I think he can help us and help coach (Kevin) Spence(r) a lot on special teams with his speed and his willingness to hit.

Were you happy with Ricardo's progress and do you expect to see him make a big jump in his second year?
That's through the first three years really. The reason we did that, with those two young guys, was we could foresee a possibility that we would need both of those players before the season was over. And with Chad (Scott) having the injury in the Dallas game, and missing a great portion of the season, Willie stepped in and did us a great job for us starting, but those two young men did a tremendous job, and we needed both of them. Again, this business is about competition and we like to give these guys as much opportunity as we can as coaches to get out and compete, compete with each other. Competition makes your football team better. Both of those guys, I thought, answered that challenge very well and as the season played out we needed both of them. To answer your question, I was really pleased with both of those young men. They've still got some development in front of them, but athletically and certainly from a competitive aspect they've answered those questions and now it's just a matter of learning the game and continuing to listen to coaches Darren Perry and Ray Horton and continuing to grow.

Would you like to draft some pass rushers?
You can never have enough good players so we're looking for any good player who can come in here and add to our talent depth. We'd give them an opportunity to rush if they come here. I like the backers that we have. We've got a good group. They can come with speed. They're tough and aggressive. We've got a little unfinished business we want to get done this year so we're looking for some help any place we can get it, but we use linebackers a lot. I wouldn't mind finding another Troy (Polamalu) out there either.

What do you make of these numbers for McFadden: 23 reps of 225 pounds, 39½ vertical jump and 11-3 broad jump?
Over the years we've done the vertical jump and then the standing broad jump, and I've probably 25 years of statistics of what guys have jumped over the years. From the explosiveness and the ability to jump, over the years, you get a pattern. Those are very, very impressive numbers. They all go into the portfolio into the young man when you're thinking about drafting him. Here we go as much on our personal interview of the young man. We think we have outstanding character on this squad and we're only interested in bringing outstanding character to it, and he qualifies there. That was very attractive to us. But when you start vertical jumping up around 40 inches and broad-jumping over 10 feet, you're jumping pretty good.

What about the other stat, that he's allowed zero touchdowns in two years?
I hope he does that for about the next four or five.

Is the defensive line an area you need to address?
I like our defensive line. The actual strength of our defense is our defensive line. The things we do with our safeties and our great linebackers, it all wheels around those three guys being able to hold down their part of it and turning those guys free. We just couldn't do the stuff we do without great play with those guys. We're blessed to have great depth there and it showed last year. When Chris (Hoke) had to go in for Casey (Hampton) he did a tremendous job, and when we picked up Travis (Kirschke) last year as a free-agent addition he was a tremendous add and fit right into the rotation. We feel we have four guys there who can start and rotate and play well for us. Again, you can never have too many good players and I think we're really fortunate in the defensive linemen we have.

Dick, thanks for stopping in. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
Hey, it's always good to drink from the well of knowledge.


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