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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 10, 2010 at 8:44 PM

Talking blocking (and other OL stuff) with Dan Cozzetto

Washington’s offensive line has obviously been a position of interest the last few weeks as UW has struggled to move the ball consistently going up against three of the best teams in the Pac-10.
So a few of us caught up to UW OL coach Dan Cozzetto after Wednesday’s practice to get his thoughts on the line, both the guys playing now and some of the youngsters. It’s pretty lengthy, but it touches on a number of topics a lot of you guys have asked about of late, so here it is:

On the approach to being an offensive line coach: “If you look at Husky football, with the fronts they had…it just takes day-in, day-out work. The fact of the matter – with any front – every day they have to be together, they have to work together, they have to lift together, they have to do just about everything you can think of. Once you have that continuity, once you have people behind you that are doing the same thing and understanding what’s expected of them, you’ve got something special. But you can’t…the thing that coach E (Dennis Erickson) has talked about, there was an absence of a recruiting class (at Arizona State). There was an absence of a recruiting class here, too. And there was some attrition. And there was attrition at his place too, so now you’re looking at a work in progress for four years, trying to get that thing right. Sometimes you go with the quick fix and go the JC route — that’s not always the answer. You have to build a foundation with those guys. It’s evident with any program that’s successful, and you’d like to redshirt all those kids so they can get acclimated to everything. But when you come into a situation that’s depleted up front, you’re forced to play young guys or you are going to go out to the junior college market and invest in that, a quick fix. All those players that ended up on great fronts that I had at different schools I was at all started out as freshmen and were able to come through the system, and when I left they were able to maintain continuity with the new coach. They still had linemen they were producing.
“But you skip out on a recruiting class, like in 2003 here, there were no linemen recruited. Again. And no matter what you say, you aren’t going to get anything done. Unless you have offensive linemen, your running game, your passing game – it’s nil. It’s nonexistent. That’s why those up-front people are so critical that you bring along from year to year – every year.”
On getting back and coaching the younger players during the bye week: “I like watching them. The only time I get to watch them in practice is if I pull up a (scout team) video and peek at ’em. But to be able to go back and coach ’em and get ’em ready to compete, it’s a lot of fun to see where they are at and where you project down the road where you’re going to play this guy or where you see this player fitting in… The biggest concern for me right now is tackles, the depth at tackle. We have plenty of guards and players that are playing center, but with the attrition that we’ve had we’re still looking at tackle problems. You’re looking at freshmen backing up freshmen. That’s probably my main concern right now – who is going to back up Senio (Kelemete); who is going to play right tackle; who is going to back up to the right tackle; is he going to be able to come along after just a redshirt year and be a quality backup that can play in the Pac-10 and do the things you’re asking them to do. Those are things I’m looking at. You’re looking at another winter conditioning, spring football, summer conditioning – even the guys that are playing now are sophomores, and they have a lot to do as far as getting stronger and bigger. Our left tackle has to get bigger, there’s no doubt about that – and he knows that. But those things come along in time. Putting on good weight, functional weight…I’m not going to ask Senio to gain 50 pounds. But he will be 295 pounds next year, or 300 because he’ll be stronger, he’ll be bigger. He’ll grow with the system. Drew Schaefer will be a heck of a lot better football player next year too because he’ll be settled into a position instead of getting moved around all the time. He’s going to be the center, and I think he’s going to be a great center. I think he’s got a future at the position he’s playing. And that’s the thing…you’re looking at them all the time. You’re looking and seeing, looking down the road. The toughest thing about this year was, all of a sudden, I’m trying to find the best players to put out there all the time, and you can’t keep shuffling people around; it doesn’t work. (Erik) Kohler gets sick, that’s sets you way back, and you’re juggling again. It’s going to get better, and with these young kids, I’m excited. I’m excited about these kids that we’ve brought in here.”
On circling back to the lineup they had at the start of the season: “Yeah, it’s kind of back to the beginning, but the fact is, Kohler is coming back – he’s stronger now, and that takes a while to recover. (Colin) Porter has to play more, and Porter is going to play more these next three games. I’ll guarantee it. He’s going to play more. He’s getting used to playing in big games. He’s had to face these last three teams, and he got a wake-up call. So did the other kid. He got a wake-up call. Now you understand what it’s going to be like if you are going to compete for a championship, or be able to compete against teams like these that are nationally-ranked – where you have to be. If you haven’t figured that out, then something is wrong with you.”
On assessing the redshirting freshmen: “They are coming along. Are they ready to play at this level yet? I don’t know. They’ve got to go through an off-season, winter conditioning and a lot of it is mental once you establish yourself physically. Then it becomes a mental game. Can you handle it. When we recruit players here we want players to start here for a minimum of three years.
“Some of these freshmen have been called into action pretty quickly and as long as we stay with high school kids and build this foundation you are looking four years down the road, another two years, now all the sudden your numbers you’ve got 18-20 guys on scholarship and you are bringing kids up through the system and it gives your strength coach time to develop kids. You look at the programs that are established they have been able to redshirt kids or grayshirt them and then redshirt them and bring them along. There is a heck of a lot of change between an 18-year-old kid and a 22 or 21 year old kid and that’s what we are trying to get to.
“There has been some tough row to hoe, obviously. But I think we are getting better and I think that the number one thing is that I’ve got to have tackles, I’ve got to have quality backup tacklers. I have some young kids and someone has to come along.”
On what he needs at tackle: “I need guys that can anchor up and sit there set and be able to take a guy coming with the blade down on him and get him stopped. When you’ve goit problems when a guy is running his cage right down the middle of your chest, you are going by that quarterback as fast as he is dropping, we’ve got some problems here. You need some cornerstones here and when you look at the teams in this league in the top echelon now they’ve got some real cornerstones out there playing that right and left tackle spot.”
On teams in the conference that have good lines: “I think Stanford has done a great job with their front. You look at Arizona, they have done a great job. And Oregon, they stockpile offensive linemen. Just take a look at them, they play 6-7-8 guys a game, they rotate through series. That’s what you should be able to do is once your program, and (Oregon OL coach Steve) Greatwood has been there for 20-something years and been able to get that done. (Arizona coach Mike) Stoops has been there for 6-7 years now and been able to get that done. And at Stanford now they are able to redshirt players and that has helped them, too.”
On Kohler’s sickness disrupting things: “Once he got sick, then all the sudden you are shuffling again and there were some performances that needed to get stepped up for some of us and it just wasn’t happening so you are put between a rock and a hard place and you say ‘okay I’m going to see what this young guy can do.’ Watched somebody else not do it let’s see if this guy can do it, and sooner or later you are mixing and matching and then finally well I’d better go back to the guys that have been in games and see if they can hold up and see how fast they come along and see if you can put them in a game again, because what you don’t want to do is hurt a kid. You don’t want to put a kid in and all the sudden he goes backwards on you because all the sudden his mental confidence goes right out the gate. You need to bring them along to where they can handle it mentally and the speed of the game — I’m always conscious about that. And you saw in the Stanford game there are two freshmen playing together, well they worked hard to get to that point, now the question is if they can handle it. They play 14 snaps and they are not handling it, they are coming off and I’m not going to ruin those kids so what’s why I made the change. I’ve been in it too long to make a mistake like that.”
On Skyler Fancher and Mykenna Ikehara: “In Skyler’s defense he still can’t move very good. He has had so many surgeries his ankle flexibility it is tough on the kid so he is limited. Mykenna has been a weight issue. For whatever reason I guess he was at 275-280 pounds before he got here and then he got sick and he has never really fully recovered yet. At one point in the season he was 250 pounds, you can’t do that. So those are other issues that you battle, too.”
On the end of last season and how that colored what he thought heading into this season: “We knew there were going to be some freshmen that were going to have to come into play and they were coming along and then all the sudden you stumble for sickness or whatever and then you are set back again, it’s been a hard row to hoe but you just have to keep working and coach the same thing and let them know you are not going to give up on them and try to build their confidence and don’t assume anyting and just keep consistent day in and day out that this is what we are going to do.”
On UCLA: “This team coming in here is a very good team, very good personnel, so we are going to have to play well. It’s all going to center on how we play up front, that’s the bottom line.”
On Porter: “You look at him, he’s got to become more flexible. He’s stiff in the hips. And he will. He’s powerful — he’s going to do some things that he’s got to get corrected because he relies on his strength to where he becomes a smarter football player to what he does and he’s learning that he was just playing football in high school a year ago. So his overall development is going to come and his athleticism is getting a little bit better to where his hips are unlocking and he is starting to move around better. But we’ll get that done over the course of a winter where he’s moving around better, he’ll get a lot more athletic.”
On James Atoe: “He’s on a strict diet right now where we are peeling it off of him, and (increasing) his flexibility because you are dealing with such a big man, we are taking it right down to the bare minimum as to everything he does — bending to touching his toes, so he can get more flexible so he can move and perform. But he’s powerful. If you want a guy, okay we will run power always to James side because he can knock the guy out of the stadium. But right now he is not playing in space very well.”



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