During my research for an article on Bobby Turner as part of my “Getting to Know the 49ers Position Coaches” series, I came across a question and answer session Turner did back in 2005 as an assistant coach with the Denver Broncos. He was Mike Shanahan’s running backs coach, and the Q&A is from a media session during June 2005 minicamp. I thought the questions and answers were still pertinent to a lot of our running back discussions here on Niners Nation.
I have included some of the questions and answers that might be of the most interest. I’ll have more on coach Turner finished in the next couple days, but I hope you enjoy this in the meantime.
What was the biggest thing that rookie RB Maurice Clarett needed to do?
“That is hard to answer after being here only the last few weeks, but the biggest thing with any player is to get oriented to the speed at the next level, whether it’s a high school player going to college or a college player going to the pros. Adjusting to the speed of the game is first and foremost.”
When you evaluate players, what do you think the most important quality is that one of your running backs has to have?
“One of the things I look for is foot quickness and that doesn’t mean timing. Some guys evaluate everything with a stop watch, but I am wondering if a guy can make another guy miss in the box. A guy also has to have toughness. He has to be able to catch the ball and all those things but, just to give you one, it is foot quickness.”
Who do you think will be the starter this year and why?
“Any one of them could be the starter. I want to get them to the point where it is tough for us to decide and at the end coach Shanahan will make the decision.”
How do you get your running backs to drop their 40 yard dash times?
“I don’t dwell on that. I’m more focused on his football time, how fast he can get to the hole and his ability to make defenders miss in space. That’s the time I look at, how fast he can get to and through that line of scrimmage.”
What does it take to turn a young running back into a great running back?
“It takes patience on both of our parts, the coach and the player. The player comes in and thinks he is All-World. Then he comes in here to a new coaching staff and a new system. I’m from the old school, I don’t want to be a guys buddy. I just want to teach. I want guys working hard and being humble and that’s what’s going to separate them. If a guy is humble and he is willing to work, the bottom line is that we are forming a relationship and that relationship is one of trust and that’s the whole key. The relationship and bonding leads to a respect and trust so he’s going to trust what I am telling him to get the job done. That’s what helps make the leaps and bounds in growth happen. Now he is busting his tail for me and as a coach, I have to feel the same way about him so no matter what I am telling him, no matter how backwards he may think it is, he is going to trust me. Then from that he plays within the team concept and he is not playing for himself, but for the team and it’s a win-win for all parties, he as a player, me as the coach and thus, us as a team.”
Do you teach a running back to look for a hole in the line opening up or to key on an offensive lineman’s left or right and have confidence that the hole will be there? It appears that Denver’s runners almost always are at the point of the hole opening?
“We teach players to run with their eyes. We teach players that one of their greatest assets is their eyes, their vision and they have to see the big picture. They have to not only see the hole but where their blocks are coming from and who is making the blocks. With running backs, a lot of people think that they just get the ball and run. They have to be knowledgeable. We teach them to run tracks (most people say paths or courses, I use the word tracks). They have aiming points, keys and reads and it is an accumulation of all of that. They glance out there and once they own the offense and once they own the defensive structure, their minds become just like a camera, they can take a picture and then they let their running skill take over.
Once and for all can you tell us if it is the system that makes the running back good or is it the running back himself?
“It’s a combination of both. I have heard so many answers and people talk about this over the years. That running back better have some ability. Then you put him into a system where he can flourish. When you put a running back there with no ability, it makes our system look bad, it makes those linemen look bad and it makes me look bad so he better have some ability. Plus you have to remember I am coaching these guys and I have to build them up and not one day do I want my players to think that they don’t have ability or they can’t play. The thing I want to build and instill in my players is self confidence. Never will you hear from my mouth that my players don’t have ability. I believe that they do and you better believe that I want to make them feel that they do because if they don’t believe it, they don’t believe in me and that gets back to an earlier question When was talking about trust. It makes no difference what anybody else thinks. As long as the player believes and I believe that he has the ability, That’s what’s important. That’s the whole key.”
I found Bobby Turners answers very helpful in understanding his teaching and evaluating process. It gives me even more confidence in our coaching staff and our team to pull us out of the nose dive we have been in the last couple of seasons. Go 49ers!