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Friday, January 16, 2009

McClendon's New Gig

Met with new UGA running backs coach Bryan McClendon today to discuss, among other things, his new gig, how the running back battle could shake out and the future of Richard Samuel. (HINT: He's not going to be playing linebacker next year.)

Here's what Coach McClendon had to say...

On getting the job at such a young age...
"I'll be the first to tell you it's a true blessing. It just shows that hard work does pay off. It's a credit to the people I work with, and of course, the head man that I work for. I just came here and tried to help out as much as I could, and I learned a good bit and was able to help out a good bit. Apparently they liked the job I've done, and I couldn't ask to be in a better place."

On being accepted onto the staff...
"All the coaches have done a great job of welcoming me with open arms. I wouldn't say the transition so much right now is a big deal, but when I first got to being a graduate assistant, that was hard. But they do a great job of treating their graduate assistants just like coaches. Even starting back then, with coaches, we're on a first-name basis. I was still struggling, calling them Coach So-and-so. But how they've welcomed me and used me, I couldn't ask for anything more."

On being accepted by the players even though he played with some of them, too...
"It's not like the guys that I did play with, it's not like I went from goofing off with them to now trying to tell them what to do. I think the seniors that I was here with when I played, we did a great job of leading those guys and having those guys listen to us then. So I think that made it an easy transition."

On whether he called his wife or father (a former UGA coach) first when he got the job...
"It was my wife, but they were all thrilled. They were just glad mostly that I'm doing something I love to do, which is not the case a lot in today's society. I'm glad I've got a job. I'm glad I can take care of my family. That was the biggest thing. But they're just happy I'm doing something that I love doing, and that I'm working with the people I'm working with."

On transitioning to RBs from coaching WRs as a grad assistant the last 2 years...
"When I was a grad assistant, you deal with the whole offense. You're not really locked down to the one position, so the game plan that I did help out with, I had to know what the backs did, who they were responsible for on protections. That's not real difficult to try to adjust. The biggest thing is just having a plan and knowing how you're going to teach it."

On taking over the RBs after Knowshon decided to leave...
"It's a definite challenge for all of us, for the whole offense. Losing Knowshon and Stafford, they are pretty irreplaceable. We've got to work hard, and that's just the challenge we've got to meet. Of course, if Knowshon was here, everyone would have thought I'd done a real good job coaching my first year. It's no doubt a challenge and we've just got to take it on. My oldest tailback is Caleb King, who's a sophomore, which is not a lot of reps. And Knowshon being a back-to-back 1,300-yard rusher, and Stafford getting us in the right plays, a lot had to do with him, too. Losing those guys is a big challenge that we have to face, but Joe Cox is very familiar with it. It's not a big letdown in that aspect. Joe's going to do a great job of getting us in the right plays, and we've just got to do a great job of making sure our assignments are right."

(NOTE: There was a great joke here from a staff member that when Knowshon bailed on the RBs, so did Tony Ball... completely kidding though!)

On his talent at recruiting...
"When I was a graduate assistant, I recruited a good bit of guys, mainly with the receivers. How would I rate myself? That sort of remains to be seen. But I just take it as a part of the job that I'm sure I've got a lot to learn. We'll keep working to see how that unfolds, but it's nothing that I'm shocked by. The only thing I haven't done is going to home visits, but as far as calling recruits and setting up visits and those other things, I've done that."

On his biggest strengths and weaknesses...
"As far as strengths, I'm a great learner and a great teacher. The biggest thing, I know I can relate not only with the coaches and the stuff that they experience, but I can relate to the players, being able to relate to situations. Even recruits, being able to relate to recruits because I was recruited the same way coming out of high school. So that can help."

On what he told the RBs when he took over...
"What anybody can expect from me. I walked them in the room when I first sat down with them, I told them that the running back position as far as playing time was the land of opportunity. It's wide open. Nobody's locked in to anything now as one, two or three. That's a decision they have to make. They know I'm always going to be 100 percent honest with them, and I expect the same from them. They know that I'm going to coach everybody fairly. That's something I know the wide receivers appreciated when I was working with those guys."

On the RBs reaction to him...
"When I first walked in the room with all of them, it was a bunch of grins. But everyone was real happy for me. They told me how fortunate they thought they were that I was their coach. Everybody was just excited. But I reminded them, it's not about me. The challenge and the opportunity we have before us this year is not about me. My job is to coach them and get them ready to play ball, and that's what I'm going to do."

On who he heard from after he got the job...
"My buddies. The same guys I hung out with when I was here, like D.J. Shockley. He called me. Those guys are real excited for me. It was a lot. Just a bunch of the guys I played with called to congratulate me, and they were saying the same thing -- how if anybody can do it, they were sure I was the guy. I said, 'Well, I needed some of that assurance.' But those guys were real happy for me."

On when he first decided he wanted to coach...
"When I became sort of the veteran of the group and I was helping coach those guys up, I could see why we were doing things the way we were, it bit me then. I was always in film room thinking, 'OK, I see now.' I think it just grew on me."

On what he learned from Coach Eason...
"The biggest thing I learned was that it's not always about football. It's not always about results on the field, but about how any player in any sport, how much he'll do for you if he knows you truly love him, and you truly have trust in him. Those guys are the ones that perform the best for you."

On whether it will be RB-by-committee or featured backs this season...
"Only time will tell. We have a great offseason program going on that just started a couple days ago, and that's going to have a lot to do with it. Of course, God forbid any injuries. Hopefully everyone gets a fair shot to see if they can handle it. Their performance is the only thing that's going to determine that."

On if he knows if Caleb will be the No. 1 back in spring...
"That still remains to be seen. Not right now I don't."

On whether Richard Samuel could change positions...
"Oh yeah, there's no doubt about it. The first thing, when you look at Richard, Richard can play pretty much anywhere on the field. A guy that big, that fast, who is that quick, the stuff he can bring to your football team, when he walks on campus period, he makes you a better football team. I think his future is very bright at running back. He has all the chance in the world to be a great one, to be a special running back. But this offseason is really going to determine how the depth chart works out."

On his dad's reaction to him getting the job...
"He was just thrilled. He pretty much knew that coaching is just about learning and teaching. But he was just thrilled that I got a job, and that I'm doing something I really enjoy. He played here and coached here, so he was just thrilled."

On how Coach Richt decided to hire him...
"I'm not sure if he had already known. I'm not sure if Coach Bobo or somebody else had already known. (Richt) just called me in the office, we chatted a little bit, then he offered me the job. It may have been something that he already knew he was going to do, but I'm not sure how he got to that conclusion. I didn't know what to expect. I was in my office working and he called me in. I didn't know anything. It turned out to be a pretty good day."

On if he brings something to the table that was missing from the staff before...
"I don't. This staff is full of good coaches that have done it for a while. Most of all, I think I'm more of an addition to the staff because I'm more like them than not -- how they recruit, how they work, and just the whole Georgia way."

5 comments:

Sports Dawg said...

A great opportunity for a former Dawg. I think it will be a big plus for Ball to return to receivers, and McClendon will begin earning his salary immediately. A year from now & we'll know what kind of coach he is & will be.

Anonymous said...

Great post David.

I'm really excited about the opportunity to have a DGD like Bryan come back and coach at the school he loves.

This is slightly off topic, but does Richard Samuel remind anyone else of Danny Ware? The turnovers aside, I see a similar build, running style, etc. I hope Samuel doesn't disappoint like Ware did. D-Ware seemed to have all the tools, he just never put it all together. But then again, he has a Super Bowl ring, so who am I to question.

David Hale said...

Anon -- In terms of build and style, I think your comparison is apt, but having covered both of them, I think there's a big difference in attitude.

I mean no disrespect to Ware, but he was always the bruising, run-you-over guy, and that's how he approached his job. While Samuel runs with a similar style, I've heard from everyone on the team what a thinking-man's approach he brings to his preparation. He's a guy who loves the film room, loves to game plan, and is simply working now on taking all that he's learned and applying it to what he does on the field.

Considering his limited carries last year, that was no doubt a challenge, but that clearly won't be the issue this year.

gene said...

I'm really excited for and about this Mclendon's chance here. Who knows, we may be watching the next great UGA recruiter and coach in the offing. He sure seems to be in the right frame of mind for it all.

gene said...

Oh yeah, good interview David.