Q&A: With OL Coach Steve Loney

You know all about the Vikings' starting offensive linemen, but we asked position Steve Loney about the young backups and how each of them is progressing.

Steve Loney is in his third season in charge of the Vikings' offensive line. This is his 28th season as a football coach.

Prior to joining the Vikings in 2002, Loney worked his third coaching stint at Iowa State, during which he was offensive coordinator and offensive line coach under Cyclones head coach Dan McCarney.

Loney also coached for the Gophers at Minnesota (1998-99), Iowa State (1995-97), Connecticut (1994), Arizona Cardinals (1993), Colorado State (1989-92), Citadel (1984-86), Morehead State (1979-83), Leavenworth H.S. (1977-78), Missouri Western State College (1975-76) and Iowa State (1974). He played collegiately at Iowa State from 1970-73.

Q: It had to be nice to see Cory Withrow meet expectations by filling in for Matt Birk during preseason, rather than getting baptized by fire if Birk suffered an injury in, say, midseason.
A: Until that happens there is a certain amount of speculation. Until the person is under the gun with pressure to perform at that high level, it is speculation. Now I don't think anybody has to speculate at all.

Q: Can offensive linemen — more than, say, skill positions — extend their careers by improving their mental approach to games and practice?
A: I'm sure there's a statistic someplace, but I'm sure the average length of an offensive lineman is greater than a running back. Dave's done a lot of the right things to put himself in this position.

Q: Certainly you hoped for it, but Chris Liwienski's versatility is what eventually got him placed into the starting lineup, isn't it?
A: The intent was for him to be a guard all along. In our system, when you can only dress seven offensive linemen for a game, those guards also have to be tackles or centers, or that tackle has to be able to play right or left. When you're backups in this system, you can't just hone in on one side of the line or one side of the position.

Q: Of your top nine offensive linemen, three (Birk, Adam Goldberg and Adam Haayer) are Minnesota natives. What gives?
A: Sometimes that's the luck of the draw. Adam Haayer got exposure here because I coached him in college. Adam Goldberg had exposure here because he's from Edina. Sometimes to get a break, you have to have prior knowledge. There are a lot of guys out there. It doesn't keep the job, but it helps get their foot in the door. You don't give any preference to a local kid, but because they are local you have more exposure to them.

Q: The Vikings normally carry seven offensive linemen on a given Sunday. Including Withrow, that would leave one — either Goldberg, Haayer or Nat Dorsey. Who is the most versatile?
A: Mike has to get that determined in his mind. As you determine that each week, the one thing you have to consider is you never know where some injuries might occur. Whereas one guy is active one week, that guy could be inactive the other next week because of an injury or a need.

Q: What has Dorsey shown you?
A: He just turned 21 years old. He's very young and has never been in an offseason program. Prior to coming here he was always a left tackle. The development of him being on both sides of the line is ongoing. It was an excellent pick.

Q: How much pride do Vikings coaches take in "growing" players?
A: That allows a person to develop. I'm not the type of position coach where you throw the ball out. If they're the right type of people, they'll get better. As they get older, and you work with the fundamentals, they improve.

Q: What does Anthony Herrera need to do on the practice squad?
A: When you get your program to where you want it to be, you're going to have to cut some football players. Obviously we didn't have him rated above some guys we have, but down the road he'll be a guy who might pass a few of those guys up. He's a tough guy who's physical.

A: Were you worried about losing him to another team in the day between releasing him and signing him to the practice squad?
Q: No question. I told him when he left he may get another opportunity with another team and if that happens I wish him the best. But we really wanted him back. He was one we wanted to come back on this practice squad.

Q: We know what Jimmy Kleinsasser can do. Who's the best blocker of the remaining three — Jeff Dugan, Jermaine Wiggins or Richard Owens?
A: You take Richard Owens and Jeff Dugan … those guys are young guys who certainly are physical blockers.

Q: Obviously it's important to stay healthy. But how impressive was it for all five starting offensive linemen to start all 16 games last season? It makes your job easier, doesn't it?
A: It does for me. Personally, that's something I'm not great at. I don't like always worrying about shuffling this guy here or that guy there. When they can play week after week, it gives them a comfort level. They can communicate between the two of them, they understand each other. They know how the other person is going to react. That's the most important thing.

Q: Michael Bennett gets hurt last season, Moe Williams fills in nicely. Last year Onterrio Smith, as a rookie, also filled in impressively. Mewelde Moore is expected to get his chance and succeed. When do we start passing kudos to your offensive line?
A: We do take that kind of pride in what we do. If we do our job up front, we have the talent back there to do some damage. As we've all witnessed, you can't be too deep in running back. That puts us in a position that — even with injury or if somebody's nicked up — if we open some holes up front we're going to do well.

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