“I’ll start off by just saying how unbelievably fortunate I am to be here. Every morning I kind of look out of my office window and pinch myself. To be working for this head coach, this organization and this ownership is something that I’m truly honored to be a part of. Our guys have been really working hard, been receptive to what we are doing. We’re surrounded by a great group of coaches, so it’s been really good. With that said, I’ll open it up to you guys for questions.”
What was the process like for you to mesh your principles in the run game with this offense that you’re now a coordinator of?
“It’s been pretty easy, because there’s some base philosophies that I’ve always kind of been around or that I’ve always wanted to be around. Being able to run the ball out of a one-back set, it’s been something that we’ve been pretty good at in the past where I’ve been and there’s some things that [head coach] Chip [Kelly] has done in the past that we’re kind of meshing together. But, it’s been really good on both sides of it, kind of meshing those thoughts, because the base of it is the same. The thought process of one, being able to run it and that being important and how you run it, kind of spreading people out to do that. It’s been easy.”
There was some speculation when you were hired that given your background this might mean that Chip Kelly’s offense is going to skew more to a power element than it had in the past. Any truth to that? How would you describe the style that the running game is going to have this year?
“I don’t know about the power element, but I do know that what Chip has done has been very successful. Talking in terms, in run-game terms, it’s been very successful. I think they were in the top-10, or just outside of the top-10 in his time where he came from. I don’t anticipate that changing much. There’s always new thoughts every year. I think you go through it at this time of year. Chip is very receptive to everybody bringing their ideas to the table. A good idea has no rank, so he’s open to new thoughts and we’re looking at all of that right now. We’ll see how it goes, but we are excited about it.”
How would you describe your role in creating this offense and how much input do you have in working with Chip and how different do you think it’s going to be because of that input?
“Like I just said, Chip is very receptive. I think as we get moving, our roles will be more and more defined once we start. But, right now we’ve all kind of been through a learning process of it. Chip’s very open-minded. He listens and my job is to learn what we do and have suggestions and bring things up. We want this to be the 49ers offense, not necessarily where he came from or where I come from. This is the 49ers offense and that means it’s not going to be exactly the same, but the structure of it is and that’s how we operate and it’s been great.”
Who do you see at right tackle? There were some issues last year on the right side of that line. Where do you see G/T Erik Pears and OL Trent Brown right now?
“I think they both are competing. They are not unlike any of the other spots that we have, they are competing. I think both are doing a good job. I think when we get a chance to get into training camp we will have a better idea, but right now both guys are doing a good job.”
Is there a reason that Pears is running with the ones or has been running with the ones?
“No, I don’t think there is a particular reason. You’ve got to put them out there in some order, but I don’t think there is a particular reason.”
What have you seen from Pears?
“The same thing I saw from him when I had him in Buffalo. He’s smart, he’s a veteran, he understands where he has to be, he’s a good communicator, so he hasn’t changed much since my last time being around him. He’s doing a good job.”
We’ve watched two practices and G Brandon Thomas has been with the first string at right guard. Has that been moving around or is he your first string guy right now? Tell us where he stands.
“There’s not a whole lot of emphasis put on who’s the first and who goes out there with the first or who’s out there with the second. There’s a pretty good chance [T] Joe [Staley] is going to beat me out at left tackle, but other than that everything else is kind of, ‘let’s see.’ I think one of the things that [offensive line coach Pat Flaherty] Flats does that’s really impressive and I think is really important, is that you kind of mix and match who’s with who, maybe change up positions. All of that stuff is important because you want to develop some depth and you want to give guys a chance to do that. So, there’s no significance in that.”
What have been your first impressions of QB Blaine Gabbert and how he’s running the offense?
“Impressed. I got a little bit of a chance to at least see Blaine, because we played them last year in Detroit and at least here what our defensive guys thought about him. One of the things that jumps out is that he’s very athletic. I actually, we brought Blaine in at Buffalo and had spent some time with him. I told our guys when we played them last year, I didn’t remember him being that fast and being that athletic, but that’s jumped out definitely. He’s been good for us. He’s done a good job. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. We’re looking forward to seeing that continue and seeing how it shapes out.”
When do you expect QB Colin Kaepernick to resume practicing?
“I have no idea. We as coaches, our jobs are to coach who’s out there on the field practicing. Whenever they say Colin’s healthy, I’m sure he’ll be there. He’s around us, he’s in the meetings, he’s doing a great job. It’s not up to me when he’s released, so we’ll see.”
Is it important to you that he gets cleared maybe next week to get a little bit of practice under his belt before training camp?
“I think what’s important is that he gets cleared when he’s healthy. We’ll go from there. So, there’s no timetable. Whenever they say he’s healthy, he’ll be out there.”
It doesn’t look like you have a guy, a backup running back who’s what you would necessarily call proven or a number two wide receiver, for that matter. How do you look at those positions and do you think there’s some intriguing possibilities guys could emerge at those spots?
“Yeah, those are positions of opportunity. That’s what’s really great about our league and that’s what’s really great about our game is that guys have opportunity and there’s some opportunity there. Not many people at some point had heard of a [free agent RB] Joique Bell or a [Detroit Lions RB] Theo Riddick, but somebody has to get their chance at some point. I’m looking forward to seeing how that shapes out, but it’s going to be a great opportunity for somebody to do that, to assume that.”
What have you seen from rookie RB Kelvin Taylor so far?
“Kelvin Taylor, he’s done a good job. He’s learning. It’s like any other rookie, you come in and things are happening fast. It’s starting to slow down for him. You can see the ability that he has, his start-stop and some of the quickness stuff that he has. So, I think Kelvin’s done a good job.”
The same goes with WR Aaron Burbridge. What have you seen from him and do you think he can kind of slide into the slot role?
“They’ll determine their roles as we move forward. The players will determine their roles on how they perform. But so far, I’ve been impressed with him. The thing that jumps out at you is he has really strong hands. He’s a really good catcher of the football. So, that jumps out at you immediately. So, we’re looking forward to seeing how it goes when we actually get in camp, but he’s doing a good job.”
Have you ever been in an offense that uses a fair amount of no huddle and up-tempo?
“In Detroit, my first year in Detroit, we had the ability to do it, but we didn’t do it as much as kind of how we live here, the world we live in here. So, I’ve been a part of it, but not on a consistent basis that it will be here. But, this is a very unique system and it’s been great to be a part of. But, yes, I’ve been a part of it kind of, yeah.”
Do you expect to be upstairs on game day?
“Yeah, I expect to be.”
And what’s the advantage there for you? Why there instead of down with the guys where you can look them eye to eye?
“Well, for me personally, I think I see a little better up top and I’ll be able to maybe communicate a little bit better with Chip from up in the box.”
What have you seen from FB Bruce Miller as he transitions from fullback to tight end?
“Bruce has done a good job. Bruce is a very unique football player. He has some unique abilities. He’s very sharp. So, his ability to learn a lot of information is good and I think Bruce has done a really, really good job of adjusting to what we’re asking him to do. So, I think some versatility in any offense, particularly this one, helps you, right? It can do nothing but help you. So, we look forward to seeing what positions we can put Bruce in to help us. So, he’s done a good job. We’ve been very impressed.”
What makes him unique?
“He can run. He’s an aggressive personality because he has some of the other side of the ball in him. He understands football because I think he’s been exposed to a lot. He can just do a little bit of everything pretty good. So, we’re excited about him.”
Both you and Chip have mentioned you share similar philosophies, similar in the run game. Are there any other common threads between you two where you really hit it off when you first met?
“Yeah. I think one of the things that really stuck out to me with Chip is he’s a football guy. So, when I came up and talked to him, I was at University of New Mexico, I don’t know how long ago, a long, long time ago and we had a guy named [former Chicago Bears LB] Brian Urlacher. And when I was coaching on defense at the time, I had the corners and we got there, the head coach was a guy by the name of [San Diego State head coach] Rocky Long, who is a very forward thinking person. After two weeks he said Brian Urlacher, who was a linebacker, after two weeks he said we’re going to move him to free safety. So, we’re all looking at each other like, ‘What?’ He’s 240 pounds and we’re moving him to free safety. So, we end up moving him to free safety. We played Air Force one time and we did something very different with him. I don’t know where Chip was at the time. This would have to be somewhere in the late ‘90s or something, and he remembered what we did with Brian Urlacher in 1998. So, I’m like wow this is a football guy. So, that really stuck out to me. And he’s forward thinking like that. Chip is forward thinking like that and I’ve always, starting out there, I’ve always tried to approach the game in that type of manner. We ran the ball at Buffalo, we did things that a lot of people didn’t do and I think our philosophies match in that way from a general standpoint.”
Last year in Detroit, you had a running back in Theo Riddick who caught 80 passes. RB Shaun Draughn in about seven games with Gabbert caught about 30 passes. Are they similar? What are you seeing from Shaun Draughn so far?
“They’re similar. Yeah, they’re similar.”
What does Shaun Draughn do well?
“Shaun’s a pro one. He’s a pro. He’s a professional football player. The way he handles his business is the first thing that jumps out at you. But on the field, Shaun can do everything good. So, he gives you some versatility. He gives you the ability to create matchup problems and things like that. So, they’re very similar players. I’m excited about it.”
After college, did you automatically know you wanted to be a coach or what were you doing those couple years after you went to TCU?
“I automatically knew I eventually did, if that makes sense. I wanted to make sure that I was done playing, that I wasn’t a young coach out there thinking that I still could play. So, I bounced around a little bit and tried out for a Canadian League team and played a little bit and came home and worked in kind of a juvenile probation field. The coach I played for, a guy named [former Texas Christian University head coach] Pat Sullivan, had always told me, when you’re ready let me know. And one day, I just decided I was ready after about a year or so. Got into it as a grad assistant and been very fortunate ever since.”
I wanted to ask one more question about a running back. You got to see RB DuJuan Harris from the other sideline last year. What does he bring to the offense? What makes him unique?
“I think DuJuan brings a little bit of juice. He has some stop-start, some explosion type stuff that he has. We’re excited about seeing how he develops.”
In Chip’s opening press conference, he said he was going to call the good plays and his offensive coordinator was going to call the bad ones. How is that play calling going to work? How is that mesh going to happen?
“Chip calls the plays. I’m sure there will be dialogue in between series or I’ll be up and we’ll, it’s open to all of us to say what we need to say or talk openly. I’m sure he’ll be receptive to that. But, Chip will call the plays and he’s been great at it and shoot, I’m looking forward to being a part of it to be honest.”