When we left off we were discussing goals and especially those you have for the
Cardinal pass rush. We haven't seen Stanford defensive tackles get to the
quarterback much in recent years, and that might be in part due to our
scheme, but what are you going to do to get them to the quarterback? We can't
rely on Chase Thomas and Thomas Keiser to do it all by themselves, can
RH: Well, if the tackles are
doing a good job, then you can. If you look over the years, there aren't a lot of
tackles who lead the world in sacks.
Right, you don't really care as long as the package is
RH: If they're getting a pocket push, if they're getting the
offensive line into the quarterback's face so he can't step up and you're
shortening the corner for the ends coming off the edge - I wouldn't mind if
Chase and "T.K." led the world in sacks. As productive as your outside backers
and ends are, normally you have a couple guys in the middle that are causing
problems, where the o-line can't kick out and stop the edge
TB: Sione Fua, Matt Masifilo, and Brian Bulcke ought to be plenty for most
teams to handle.
RH: The greatest thing about the game we have here, is that we have
got 11 people. It's a team game, it's the ultimate team game. If there were 12,
things could be evened up, but it's 11. It has to be six and five. You can't
ever even up across the field. Those are the fun things that we get to deal
with. The kids will respond hopefully and we'll get things done.
what are the qualities from your experience in ranked order that you feel are
the most critical to the success of your interior defensive line? You have
"motor", "quickness", "desire", "toughness", "ability to stay low"?
How would you rank things in your mind?
RH: You named them all right
there! First, you have to work hard. There's never been anything done in the game of
football without working hard. The quickness factor, the strength factor, the
competitiveness, all that stuff comes into action from there. It all starts from
the heart, the "intestinal fortitude", the idea of "I'm not going to be
defeated", that's where it comes from. If you have that first...You know, the
biggest, strongest, fastest guys aren't winning this game every year. It's guys
that go out there and compete together as a team, play as a team, and execute as
a team, that wind up winning the game. That's what you're looking for. The
chemistry. I'll go back to those two basketball teams that we talked about.
Those guys are good on both sides, but where does (Derek) Fisher come
from where all of a sudden, he's winning the game for them? Nate Robinson,
one of the smallest guys in the NBA comes out having a big game, gives the
Celtics a spark.
TB: Help fans understand - we're going to be
playing a "3-4" but you have a lot of different variations you can employ.
What s going to go on in terms of over and under fronts - In layman's
terms, what responsibilities are going to change and in what ways,
There will be an over
and under front, there will be a rush outside linebacker. It could look like a
four-man front at times then go back into a three-man front with two outside linebackers.
So there is great flexibility within the defense… I'm sure
you're aware of Coach Fangio's past. The defense started with the Saints.
It's been to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They still run it of course. They
still run it at the Ravens. Dom Capers is one of the originators at Green Bay,
so enough teams have converted. This year I think you'll see over half the teams
in the league run a version of the "3-4", certainly not the old "two-gap across
the board" that we used to know back in the ‘70s but a lot of the 1970s
principles will go back in the game. It's just one big cycle. The number of
players isn't going to change, but how you position your players and what you do
with them is just going to recycle around: For every offensive action, there's a
defensive reaction, and then an offensive "re-reaction". So, we're in that phase
right now, where we're reacting to the offense and then we'll see what the
offense has for us as we go down the road.
TB: So let's say the "4-3" or even the "5-2",
you've seen Stanford run in recent years. If we were trying at the time to
squeeze and constrict gaps, what will be the philosophy of the "3-4"? What
are you trying to accomplish?
You're trying to play a seven-man front as much as you can with the four-deep
secondary. You're trying to hold off gaps and probably get more pressure
the field instead
of being as "gap-conscious" as some people would like to be. But you're not
going to be… you're still going to defend the ball by gaps. There might be
times where you get eaten out of the gaps but you're linebacker will play over
the top and make the play and away you go. It probably isn't much of a difference when
you look at how we've evolved in the defense. We'll have the flexibility, and
the substitution defenses, with nickels and dimes, will still be the same. There
will be some difference in approach with regard to pressure, not that it's
going to be all pressure, but there will zone pressure, man pressure. You have
tremendous flexibility when you have got a three-man front.
TB: Within your unit you have "defensive
tackles" and you have, whether you call them "nose tackles", guys that fit
the traditional idea of the nose. Fua could probably play anywhere. Terrence Stephens will probably be a middle guy. Can you talk a little bit about
which attributes you prefer to have at each of those
RH: Your ends are guys that are bigger, more of a defensive
tackle playing on an offensive tackle - rather that than your smaller six-foot four-inch, 230-pound
or 240-pound defensive ends. That's your nickel threat, your outside linebackers
getting moved in. That's where Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas get in the mix. In
reality, you have three defensive tackles that are working with one nose-man. In
the NFL you'd have a BIG nose-man, a 350-pound guy that is a "phone booth" football
player that is a first- and second-down player, that wants to stuff the four
inside gaps as best as he can. I don't know that we're going to have
that animal within our defense right now. We're going to have a guy that plays
doggone good football in there in Sione - and certainly Terrence will have to
pick it up in there as well. We'll play traditional nose-man football where
we'll try to get them to play off the front side of the football and go from
TB: One of the areas that can help get the ball
back for the offense is successful defense on third downs. You have to have enough
depth to be able to bring fresh bodies in on critical third downs.
We assume that's been a big challenge, just to have enough
RH: Exactly, that's what you have to have. The other thing
is "Don't wait until third down!". When you look at the league champion statistically
- and I have not - you'll find that a whole lot of the
teams that are playing the best have a
positive turnover ratio. If your defense is getting more than your
offense is giving up and you can gain those offensive possessions by turnovers,
you have a great chance of wining football games. That's a statistic that we
don't always throw out there, but turnovers are critical. We can't always wait
until third down to get off the field. If we can get off the field prior to
third down, I think that the defensive will improve tremendously. If you can go
first-down fumble and get off the field or second-down interception and get off
the field or third-down on downs or interceptions, those are your field position
numbers. Any time you can create a turnover, your opponents aren't
punting, so you're not giving up those 40 yards of field position.
now you're talking about
the collective defensive effort, because we can't really expect the defensive
line to contribute a lot of turnovers. As far as forced fumbles go, greater
aggression might help…
right, and somebody has to be there to recover it. That's where your
aggressiveness comes. If you're working to get to the football every time, then
good things will happen. If we get the ball out and there's nobody there to pick
it up, what have we done? We've created a fumble and not made a turnover out of
it. That's where you get the idea of getting one, two, three, four guys to the
football. If two guys are tackling and two guys are getting the ball out, you
have a chance of getting it out. That's just the overall aggressiveness of your
defense. You want to keep that going as best you can.
TB: Coach when you arrived here and took a
look at your depth. Obviously you want to be three-deep at everything, but we
may not always have that many bodies with experience and we've had to do a few
"conversions". Can you talk about a few of the converted guys, who may have
played some defensive line in high school, like a Jacob Gowan, that will be
necessary as a part of your rotation?
not familiar with where some of these guys played in high school, but the guys
I've seen are suited to where they are playing now. I'd agree with all the
personnel. After every practice we're always looking as a staff to find out who
can help us better at another position or what we can do to help ourselves by
position movement. That's one thing I think Jim Harbaugh does a great job with.
He's open to any and all movement and he's even open to having guys play both
ways. A lot of coaches in college football, their minds aren't that open to see
what Owen (fullback/inside linebacker Owen Marecic) will do and how he's
done it, to be ready to go at both positions is pretty doggone good. And it
certainly will help you, not only in your front-line guys, but it will help you
as you go, too. Those snaps you're always worried about - when somebody
needs a break, it's great if you can put an offensive starter on your defense,
or a defensive starter on your offense - you can keep that high level
of play going.
TB: We get that concept, but we have some
concerns. Owen is a great fullback. To tire him out,
potentially, when he is that valuable to our run game, it seems like quite
a risk. It seems hard to believe he could log meaningful minutes on defense and
maintain his incredible effectiveness on offense...
RH: He can. We probably
differ on that one. I watch how they do it in basketball, when you are getting
those guys rested at the end of the first quarter. You are
working them around as you watch the basketball guys go forever. Your
substitutions are strategic as heck and I think there is a lot that football
can learn looking at basketball substitutions. Certainly you want your best
players on the field at the beginning of the game, the end of the first half,
the beginning of the second half and late in the fourth quarter. What happens in
between there - if you can cheat a couple of possessions and come out ahead in
that fourth quarter when it is time to go out and win the football game. you
want the best people on the field. Everyone substitutes in other
sports, you don't have to be only offense or only defense. If we are going
to save scholarships down the road, we may have to get back to single-platoon
football. We need to great players playing.
TB: Among your pupils you have now, who would
you say comes to mind as your "most hungry" student? Who's knocking on your
office door who's trying to watch film and trying to learn? Hopefully a lot of
RH: (Laughing) I'm not going to label it like that for
you, Jim! I'm not going to tell you! They're hearing it from me. so they don't
have to read it in the paper.
TB: (also laughing) OK, here's a
question we know you can answer! Would Stanford and Jim Plunkett have
beaten Woody Hayes and THE Ohio State University if you had one more year of
RH: You know
what, it would have been no factor. It would have been the same outcome.
Out-coached and out-played in all areas of the game. My two cents would not have
made much of a difference, I guarantee you.
TB: You must have known
Dave Tipton (1971 Rose Bowl defensive lineman and later longtime
Stanford assistant coach) and some of the guys from that Stanford
RH: Sure, I
saw Tipton up in Seattle and followed him throughout his coaching. Good man and
doggone, he's a great Stanford Cardinal, no doubt about it!
TB: If you're looking across the line in practice, you must
see a pretty formidable Stanford offensive line, one that
obviously has gained respect within the conference and is bringing back
four experienced starters. Which of those Cardinal offensive linemen would
concern you most if you were preparing your defensive line group to battle
You're always looking for the great centers. A great center can cause you all
kinds of problems because he's running the show up front.
He gets the protections turned mentally, he makes the run calls, the blocking calls, he's
the guy pointing out the middle linebacker, in most cases, for pass protection.
A great center is a guy that can pull, a guy that can block,
and a guy that can handle somebody on his nose, which some guys are
having to learn right now because there aren't a lot of high schools recently that are playing
the odd-front. That's the guy that makes the whole thing go, in my opinion.(Ouch, not
very encouraging for the San Francisco 49ers, who lost former Cardinal star and veteran
NFL stalwart Eric Heitman to injury this week)
TB: As you go forward you have to be looking
forward to a couple of these road trips. You mentioned earlier in the interview
that you'll have an opportunity to travel to some very familiar
territory this season…
RH: I look
at them as a group, as a team. You're looking because like I said it can be
flexible in their protection and blocking schemes, so you're trying to put some
of our favorite rush combinations on some of their weaker guys and letting
somebody know when you're playing against this guy they're as good as there is
and let's see how good you are. Everybody thinks they're an NFL player, well
guess what we're going to find out if you're a good college football player.
Those matchups are obvious and they come from time to time but in one game I
don't know in any situation where one guy would block one guy for the entire
game. There is too much changing going on up front with protections blocking
TB: Well, coach, thank you. We look forward with great
anticipation to the fall. I'm sure it will be fun for you and I can't tell you
how happy we are to have you on the Farm!
you're not as happy as I am, I guarantee you. I'm a very fortunate man and quite
happy - so we're excited to get going!
TB: Our goal is to make
sure this is your last stop in your coaching career and to make sure it
lasts for at least the next
21 seasons - so you can break your record with the