Johnson Gets Lesson in Coaching
Aug. 16, 2007
College football coaches are constantly teaching - from the football field to the classroom to life. But recently, one member of the Indiana coaching staff had the chance to learn, and he jumped at it.
"The opportunity came up - there's a program run through the NFL, it's a NFL minority coaching internship position," said offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, who spent two weeks working with the New Orleans Saints earlier this summer. "Coach [Sean] Payton was our quarterback coach my senior year at Miami (Ohio) and in prior years he had offered me the opportunity, but the schedule just didn't match up. This year I went down there for two weeks to their training camp at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss."
According to Johnson, he was embraced as part of the coaching staff, and was allowed to participate in all the staff's activities, including staff meetings, practice preparation and game planning for preseason games. Johnson worked with offensive line coach Doug Marrone, who had Johnson work with his players, from All-Pros to rookies.
"The biggest thing that he told me was, `You coach these guys just like you coach college players - assume they don't know anything and teach them the fundamentals," Johnson said. "So that was the thing I really got from him was the amount of football that they coach. It was a good learning experience to see how the staff worked at that level - there's not really much difference."
The experience has paid off for Johnson and his offensive linemen in Indiana's preseason camp this year. On Marone's advice, Johnson has focused more on the basics this camp, and he has seen good results from the change.
"Coach Marone said, `Hey, you really need to work on this aspect of your game, or that aspect,'" Johnson said. "So, we've really been working on our first two steps and our hands. We're in practice 12 and I'm still talking about it. Those are the first three things that happen in any block, whether it be pass protection or run blocking. So I've really found myself focusing on fundamentals, knowing that there's an application for those fundamentals in every single play."
As for the progress of the offensive line this camp, Johnson has seen good development of his core group. With four returning starters and a fifth-year senior projected as the fifth starter up front, the line is a very cohesive group, and the offensive line coach is pleased with what he has seen so far.
"We're introducing some concepts that were mid-season things last year - game plan adjustment stuff - and we're introducing it already," Johnson said. "We're a lot further along in that aspect, but we're still a work in progress. There are some guys that really need to step up. I was hoping there was going to be more competition, and right now there's not. There are some young guys that are playing like young guys - very inconsistent. But the things that they're doing wrong are very fixable - it's not an ability issue, it's a technique or a fundamental issue. We're further along than we were last year, but we still have a lot of work to do to be prepared for that first game."
One aspect that has made Johnson's job easier this season is the newest presence on the coaching staff. After finishing his four-year career with the Hoosiers having started every game for IU while playing all five positions on the offensive line, Justin Frye joined the coaching staff as the offensive graduate assistant. With Frye, who has played under Johnson and with nearly all the players on the offensive line, Johnson has an invaluable resource in his corner.
"Justin understands what I'm trying to teach," Johnson said. "He's a guy that knows how I'm trying to verbalize it to the kids. What that allows me to do is break the group down in small parts and get very specific in my coaching. I can give him a group of guys and say, `This is what we're trying to get done, here's the situation,' and he can go teach it and sound just like it came out of my mouth because he's going to teach it the exact same way. So what it does is allow me to give more attention to each guy. It might not be my specific attention, but I know they're getting coached the same way.
"We're fortunate here that we have really good graduate assistants," he continued. "Justin does a great job for me, I know he knows what we're trying to get done, I know he knows how I'm teaching it, he knows the big picture, so I trust him. I know Mike Muehling is the same way on defense, Brian George trusts him, and the kids listen to them. That's the big thing, the kids listen to them, the kids trust them as well. It doesn't matter what he knows, it matters what he can teach them. So I know what he knows, and I know he does a good job of teaching it, and the players do too. It really helps me a lot and allows me to give more attention to each kid."
So after spending two weeks as a surrogate member of an NFL staff, does Johnson see himself eventually pursuing a career as a professional coach?
"I tend to be more of a short-term guy," he said. "Really, I just want my players to be as good as they can be. The experience I got there was great, but I haven't thought about that much. I thought more about, `How can I get Cody Faulkner to block 70?' or `How can I get Alex Perry to get a consistent snap.' I'm more of a short-term guy, I want my players where I'm at to be as good as they can be. Now, if you do that and your kids play good, and you have consistency at your position, those opportunities tend to come along. I've found that if you take care of your business, those opportunities present themselves. But if you're always worried about the next opportunity, you're not taking care of the business at hand."
Check back soon