Q & A With Coaches: Part Eight - Dennis Darnell
Part One: Running
Backs and Keith Grable
Part Two: Secondary and Kendrick Shaver
Part Three: Quarterbacks and Pete Darnell & Kickers/Punters and Scott Downing
Part Four: Tight Ends and David Walker
Part Five: Defensive Line and Sean Dunaway
Part Six: Wide Receivers and Jordan Fenner
Part Seven: Linebackers and Cody Deti
As football camp winds down on Saturday morning, offensive coordinator Dennis Darnell wraps up the eight-part question-and-answer series with the coaches of Northern Colorado. He takes a look at the offensive line and their contributions to the 2009 fall camp.
Darnell begins his third season with the Bears and is the most experienced coach on staff. He has spent time at numerous Division I schools throughout his career including Missouri State, New Mexico, Utah State and Drake.
Classes begin for the Bears on Monday as they return to their normal practice schedule, 3:30-6:00 Monday through Thursday.
Question: Probably the most senior -laden position on the field, what leadership has the offensive line added to the team?
DD: It doesn't necessarily add anything unless those three are good leaders and Ryan Kemp, James Zapp and Chris Jones are as fine as it gets. Those guys have been solid their entire career and I've been with them now going on three years and they're the kind of people you absolutely want on your team and to be leaders. They all pass the running test when we come in, they all do the things you want them to do and they're all going to graduate on time. You've got to do all those other things right in order to lead on the field and they do it.
Q: With two game-experienced centers returning in Tim McGraw and Alex Shapiro, how has that affected camp?
DD: Well with Tim, his blessing in kind of his handicap. He's an extremely intelligent player and he can play center and guard. Really the way I look at it right now we have two guards plus Tim that can play guard and we have one center plus Tim who can play center. So he really has to be a center and a guard. As I tell him, he's always competing for the starting position but at any point in time he might have to change that position even if he wins the starting role until maybe one of those younger players' surfaces a little bit more and takes over. Because of his versatility and the blessing that he can do that it almost hurts him a little bit from becoming a starter. Like I told him and James Zapp just the day before yesterday they are just barely apart as far as starters and Tim could take over that starting spot. He's probably closer at guard than he is at center at this point. His versatility is kind of his handicap.
Q: As a group, what is the biggest strength of the offensive line?
DD: I think it's those three seniors and what they lend. The only one who's missed any practice this two-a-days is Chris because of a calf injury that held him out a little bit. When one of those is missing there is definitely a different tone, the confidence drops a little, so their leadership is really great. Now our line and our team has to know how to operate if one of them can't be in there as well so we can't just totally rely on those guys. It does show you how valuable they are.
Q: What is the most important improvement they can make before the season opener at Kansas?
DD: They all have technique things they can get better at. Ryan Kemp needs to punch a little better, Chris needs to keep his head up on some pass blocks a little. James Zapp needs to improve his first step on pass protection, there's those little technique things they all need to keep working on.
Q: Is there a positive moment that stands out from this camp?
DD: I don't think that there is. The way I would look at it is, I have two negative moments in this camp out of the 20 or 21 days we have been here that I can remember so that's pretty minimal. I think probably the overall positive-ness of the camp is what stands out. The fact that I can only think of two practices that I walked off the field not pleased with is pretty good really.