September 25, 2008

Muschamp and Kindle: match made in heaven

In this week's Fourth-and-Inches, let's go inside the mind of Will Muschamp. It's a raucous, helmet-jarring, mouthguard-dislodging place to be - only for the football-hearted.

We'll also check in with Sergio Kindle, who wore the tank top again to Monday's press conference and drew this response from quarterback Colt McCoy: "Sergio looks like Vernon Davis."

I can't tell you how many people inside the program have told me that Muschamp is ALL ABOUT BALL. I mean don't even come to him and ask if he wants a can of Diet Coke while he's watching film. He might throw something at you. (We kid because we care.)

I have been calling Muschamp the next Bob Stoops. I've had some ask me if Muschamp's single-mindedness about Xs and Os could make him the next Mike Stoops - not Bob - and to that I say, no way.

Muschamp does well with the media and knows how to work a room full of suits. He remembers names, and he'll be fine. (I know, I know people said the same thing about Greg Robinson. But even Muschamp knows better than to grab a certain region with one hand and make half the peace sign to OU fans at the Cotton Bowl with the other - as legend-making as that may have been for Robinson in UT circles.)

Let's update my Muschamp head coaching prospects for 2009: Clemson, South Carolina … and … drum roll … wait for it … Tennessee. (Again, we kid because we care.)

Our Football 101 with Muschamp this week explores his rapid development of Sergio Kindle a.k.a. "The Predator" (his words, not ours), as a pass rusher:

"Sergio is a guy who gives us juice off the edge," Muschamp said. "He's a very explosive, fast-twitch guy who can convert speed to power in the rush. That's been very evident throughout camp and in our first three ballgames.

"We match personnel, so we're going to play nickel and dime like we did Saturday (against Rice). We want to get our best rushers in the game and speed on the field so we're not going to waste him dropping him into coverage when the best thing he does is pass rush."

(When I heard him say this it reminded me of the story I wrote in August quoting Sergio's high school coach - Bobby Estes at Woodrow Wilson in Dallas - about a conversation Estes had with former linebacker coach Larry Mac Duff. Estes said Mac Duff gave him a hard time for not working harder with Kindle on pass drops. Estes replied, "A thoroughbred doesn't go backwards."

Even Kindle laughed when I reminded him of that story.

"Exactly. That was my 'See ball, hit ball' mentality," Kindle said. "If I stepped backward (in high school), something bad was happening."

Here's where it gets interesting with Muschamp and how he teaches pass rush.

"Simply put, we tell the defensive end there's an imaginary X four yards behind the inside the leg of the tackle," Muschamp said. "The most important thing about pass rush is getoff. You've got to get off the ball and get a great takeoff on the snap.

"We want to beat him to that point. And certain kids have the ability to flip their hips and speed to the edge. When the tackle does soft-set you - and in order to block a good speed rusher, they've got to soft set and get out quickly.

"That's where you want to long arm and then convert speed and now power the tackle to the quarterback. I always tell the guys, 'You run past the quarterback, we're playing with 10. Nobody ever makes a sack when they run past the quarterback.'"

Muschamp said he asked Washington Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor to send some cutups of his pass rush for Brian Orakpo, Kindle, Eddie Jones and Henry Melton to study in the off-season. Muschamp coached Taylor with the Miami Dolphins in 2005.

"I learned a lot from Jason Taylor," Muschamp said. "He's been pretty good at rushing the passer. He speed rushes and based on the tackle set, he converts speed to power and has one counter. And that is all he does in pass rush. We have all these D-line coaches who like teaching 84 pass rush moves. Let's get good at one and have one counter off that.

"You've got to reduce the pocket around the quarterback. What happens is these guys go in throwing their hands and giving a bunch of different pass-rush moves, and they're not gaining any ground on the quarterback," Muschamp said. "You've got to threaten the tackle because you're a better athlete than he is - we hope. So let's play to our strengths. Let's use our speed and convert speed to power. If we beat him on the edge beat him. That's what we've been coaching."

Kindle can't say enough about the coaching he's getting from Muschamp.

"I've grown as a player, as an athlete and as an individual. I came in very young," Kindle said. "My defense was see ball, hit ball. I had no coverages, no technique. I was just gifted enough to get to the ball.

"But now that I know how to read things, Coach Muschamp breaks that all down before every game. It's almost like things are in slow motion when you get coached that well. You can just see it."

Muschamp said it took one pass rush drill on the first day of fall camp for him to design the Buck Package and get Kindle to put his hand on the ground for the first time since ninth grade.

"I had watched the film of all the games (from last season)," Muschamp said. "But I learn by what I see with what we're doing better than other ways. We did pass rush early on. You think they'll be good. But you don't know until you do it. Sergio bends the edge and converts speed to power and t was very evident we had to have a role for him within that."

Kindle said he's gaining more and more confidence with his hand on the ground.

"I guess he watched film from last year and just saw what I was capable of and figured I could go off the edge as a blitzer and it's suited me well so far," Kindle said. "I feel like even if my hand wasn't on the ground, I'd try to make play after play. But being off the edge is different.

"I like it a lot. It feels good to look down and see Roy (Miller), Lamarr (Houston) and Rak and know that you don't get there, one of them will.

"My confidence has also been high because coming out of two-a-days we looked so good, I was confident we were going to have a great team. My confidence is good because I know I'm helping my team win, and that's all that matters."

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