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Q&A: Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally

Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally was kind enough to grant me a few minutes of his time outside the cafeteria before he went in for lunch. We sat down for a short one-on-one interview with the following results:

Question from Eric: There are 31 teams out there and all different kinds of style of play, techniques, and so forth. Are there different schools of thought or categories that you can group people in? For example, can you say that (offensive line coaches) Joe Bugel is this kind of a guy, Jim McNally is this kind of a guy, Jim Hannifan is known for teaching these kind of techniques?

Answer from McNally: Probably can but a lot of us teach a lot of the things the same and it would just vary. I may teach a particular technique on a particular running play different than another coach, but maybe I teach technique on another running play like every other coach. So I think it all varies with the play. We are going to run an off-tackle play to the right (against) this defense; I may coach it the same as somebody else. Now we may have a counter play on, where we are double-teaming, I may teach the double-team differently than somebody else…That is a hard question to answer.

Question from Eric: You guys seem to use a lot of movement. You pull a lot, a lot of angle…

Answer from McNally: We do a lot of shifting for one which will give you that illusion to begin with. But we have all kinds of plays. We have straight plays, zone plays, pull plays. You just try to have a full ammunition because we just don’t think we can line up and run the same plays over and over again…you know…like Denver does…but we do have a lot of plays.

Question from Eric: Do you trap a lot?

Answer from McNally: We don’t necessarily trap a lot, but we run a lot of counters and powers where the pulling guard may get the next guy. We might double-team and pull somebody for the man…the defensive end or the outside backer. But short inside traps we don’t run much.

Question from Eric: I read an article a couple of years ago on your style of play where you emphasize a lot of hand usage. Is that true?

Answer from McNally: That might have been about pass pro punching and stuff like that. I don’t think that I do that more than any other coach, but on the pass pro, you can really…boom…bang ‘em with your hands so we do stress the hands obviously on pass protection. We use them on the running game…get in there and grab a little bit, but I don’t think I do it more than anybody else.

Question from Eric: So you punch them hard in pass protection?

Answer from McNally: Try to. Of course they are moving, knocking our hands down, grabbing us so it is never as clean as like it to be.

Question from Eric: Is there a different school of thought out there that says don’t emphasize the hands? Or is everyone doing it?

Answer from McNally: No, everybody is doing that with the hands. You have to because they grab you, pull you, and control you so much you’ve got to be able to use your hands.

Question from Eric: Is that why you guys when you scout you look for long arms?

Answer from McNally: Yes. I mean I don’t think we ever reject a guy because he doesn’t have long arms, but if he does have long arms, it is a better deal.

Comment from Eric: I noticed that with Lomas today. He seems to have very long arms…

Answer from McNally: Long arms, long arms. This Josh Warner…this young rookie from Brockport, he’s got real long arms.

Question from Eric: How’s he doing?

Answer from McNally: Not bad. Not bad. He’s real strong, strong physically. He’s kinda green.

Comment from Eric: We’ve had a few guys from his school ask about him…

Answer from McNally: He’s not too bad really. Strong physically.

Question from Eric: I don’t want to keep you but could you give a quick, individual read-out on the second team offensive line…a quick blurb on what you like about each of those guys and what they need to work on?

Answer from McNally: Jason Whittle is kind of the number one guy to go in at center or guard and he’s been hurt with a hip so he hasn’t practiced. We like Chris Bober; he’s a free agent from Nebraska-Omaha because he is playing guard, tackle, and center…all three positions. He’s just free agent…a guy that came out of nowhere last year so that was a real plus. We didn’t draft him; we got him as a free agent. Chris Ziemman is a real big, strong guy…we’ve got him at back-up right tackle. He was out with that knee surgery last year so he’s coming back slow. So Whittle and Ziemann are coming slow with injuries. Rosenthal looks like he’s recovered from the shoulder surgery. He’s a big, tough guy that’s improving. Jim Goff is a kid from Lafayette…a second year man…a free agent who was on our developmental last year. He’s getting better. And our other guys are all rookies…Seubert from Western Illinois, Redziniak from Illinois, Sykes from Louisiana Tech, and Josh Warner. But all those young guys are pretty good. There is not one of them in there that’s just ah…you know…just shouldn’t be here.

Question from Eric: Now Bober has been playing a little at left tackle…

Comment from McNally: He’s been playing a lot at left tackle.

Question from Eric: Does he have the feet to do that?

Answer from McNally: Good feet. Very good feet. He’s a little shorter, but he’s got good feet. Sometimes he’s got to bend his knees a little bit more, but we are asking him to do a lot so he’s thinking a lot. He’s playing guard, tackle, and center.

Comment from Eric: He’s a guy that I just wasn’t paying enough attention to last preseason, but this year I really want to keep an eye on him. Because last year I thought he was just in here just for another body…

Comment from McNally: I know. Well he was.

Question from Eric: One last question and I’ll let you go. If there was one thing that sort of frustrates you as a coach when you read something in the press or hear the fans talk about the game…if they just knew this, if they just understood this is the way things are…

Answer from McNally: They think that every time a play breaks down it is the line’s fault. That’s very frustrating. Probably the most frustrating thing to line coaches is that every time the quarterback gets sacked they think it is the line’s fault. It may be a receiver that didn’t get open, it may be a back that missed the pick-up, the quarterback may have held the ball too long. Generally, the fans are a little off base when evaluating pass protection.

Question from Eric: And when a play does break down…does it tend to be mental just as many times as a physical breakdown?

Answer from McNally: Not with the veterans in there so much in the game. Occasionally they’ll throw something weird on you where there will be a mental mistake. Probably…I’ll say…25% mental…75% physical.

Comment from Eric: I appreciate you taking so much time with me. Thank you!

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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