Coaches Q&A: RBs Coach Carl Hargrave

Running backs coach Carl Hargrave isn't quite ready to annoint Michael Bennett the starting running back, but he does like Bennett's speed.

Carl Hargrave has been coaching running backs for the Vikings since 1995. He started with the Vikings as their tight ends coach and offensive assistant in 1994, and a year later moved to the backfield. Since, he has coached seven different starting running backs (Robert Smith, Jim Kleinsasser, Leroy Hoard, Charles Evans, Robert Green, James Stewart and Amp Lee). This year, he will add at least an eighth to that list.

Hargrave joined the Vikings after two seasons at the University of Iowa coaching tight ends. He attended the Vikings' training camp in 1992 and '93 as part of the National Football League's Minority Coaching Intern Program.

Hargrave tutored wide receivers at the University of Houston from 1987-91. During his tenure with the Cougars, the school set 88 individual NCAA offensive records and 36 NCAA team records.

Q: How have the running backs looked so far?
A: I'm really impressed and encouraged with the way they are playing right now. It's a young crew, and I think they are playing fairly well right now.

Q: How is Michael Bennett progressing?
A: He is studying the game and that's what this process is about right now. Making sure he's familiar — all the young guys — are familiar with what we are trying to do.

Q: Fans obviously expect him to step right in, but as a coach what is a realistic time table for a player such as Bennett?
A: It's hard to say. He's got tremendous speed, and the fans and everyone sees he can run fast. But that's not what the game is all about. I think we are going to keep putting him in those situations where he can be successful. I think he'll have an opportunity to really help us down the road.

Q: What are Bennett's main assets right now and where are you working with him the most?
A: He's naturally gifted as far as his explosion and quickness, as well as his overall speed. I think the big thing is understanding the pass protection rules that we have and being able to attack in that fashion. I think that's where we are working the most at right now.

Q: It seems Doug Chapman came into camp ready to compete for the starting job.
A: He did. He got a gift from Moe (Williams) when Moe got injured early this year. So Chappy stepped up and has really done a great job. He had a tremendous offseason, working with Cris Carter down (in Boca Raton, Fla.) in his speed program. Chappy had a great situation last year where he could sit back and learn from Robert (Smith). Now he's able to come out and do some of the things we have asked him to do.

Q: What are Chapman's greatest strengths?
A: He has tremendous quickness and great vision. He's got excellent acceleration and can break tackles. That really helps out. I think he's more like Leroy Hoard was. And I think Bennett is more like Robert (Smith). So that's a nice one-two punch right there.

Q: Are fans going to see that one-two punch?
A: We have had a lot of success over the years by having running back by committee. We are just going to place the best guys out there to do the best they can do at their roll.

Q: How far back has the foot injury set Moe Williams?
A: Not far. Moe has been here six years, so he understands the system and what we are doing. We just have to get his foot healthy.

Q: Are there any other backs you see emerging?
A: Jimmy Kleinsasser. We put him in different situations. He's playing a little bit more on third down, protection-wise. We also hand him the ball on third down. So he's going to be a big part of that offense.

Q: Have you talked to Robert Smith at all of late?
A: I talked to Robert. We talked briefly after Korey Stringer's burial and Robert is happy doing what he's doing, relaxing, and his body feels good. He is retired.

Q: Of course, you wouldn't mind seeing him on the field, right?
A: Well, I think the way Robert went out was very classy. He let us know early enough and we were able to pick up a Michael Bennett. VU

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