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Butch Davis Chats With Hogs Haven (Part I)

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I'd like to thank Kevin Best and James Vollono for allowing Hogs Haven to setup such a quality interview with the former University of Miami, and now UNC, Coach, Butch Davis. A special thanks to Coach Davis goes for taking time out of his schedule to do a phone interview. Part one involves the schematic questions the Redskins youth faces, the second part is Coach's stories of recruiting Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, and Sean Taylor. Here goes part one:

HH: The Redskins drafted Brian Orakpo this year, the DE out of Texas. They plan on using him as an OLB on 1st and 2nd downs. What is your feeling on moving players around positionally? I know you had a bunch of cases of guys moving from one position to another and then becoming an all American. Is it a tougher transition in the pros?

Every place I’ve ever coached we’ve always experimented moving players around. That was one of the things Jimmy Johnson was brilliant at going all the way back to our Oklahoma State days. Dexter Manley was originally an OLB that we moved to DE and obviously he had great success with the Redskins. A variety of guys at Miami and Dallas. Tony Tolbert who was a great player for the Cowboys. He was an OLB at the University of Texas El Paso and he came in and we made him a DE. It’s wise. I think all coaches are looking for gifted athletes that have a lot of versatility. You’re always trying to create matchups. That’s probably the biggest change in football the last 15-20 years. Slot receivers against nickel backs. Corners and multiple personnel. You’re looking for matchups. Brian is as gifted as he appears to be. I’m sure they’re going to find a lot of ways to get after the QB.

HH: The majority of WRs seem to have a hard-time transitioning to the NFL. Why do you think this is and how do you think Hakeem Nicks, who you mentored at UNC, will be his first year for the Giants?

He’s going to do extremely well. He’s a competitor. He’s got a lot of physical gifts and talents. He’s got outstanding hands. He’s a tireless worker. He’ll go out and do everything that the Giants coaching staff is going to ask him to do. The difficulty that the receivers a lot of times in some respect it’s a little bit like the difficulty that defensive linemen face sometimes have making the transition is that there not always challenged in college as much they are going to be challenged in the NFL. In the case of receivers, they may not play against press bump and run … man against really truly quality corners maybe more than two or three times a season. It’s just the quantity and the number of times. Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and a lot the receivers we had at Miami that eventually became just phenomenal players at the next level. It is a little bit tough. We saw with Michael Irvin coming from Miami to Dallas when I was with the Cowboys in years one and two, but the great ones they eventually…they are so hungry they’ll succeed. They’ll work hard enough on their releases and identify the best way to beat certain coverages and they’ll get it. 

HH: From talking with James Vollono, as well as hearing about the time he spent at Redskins Park talking to players, it is clear you built incredibly strong relationships with your players (Portis and Moss). What is it about your style or approach that elicits such love and respect from these guys so many years later?

Clinton, Santana, Edgerrin…you just develop relationships with them because you treat them as people. You never looked at them. You never tried to have a relationship based on how many touchdowns they can score or the number of interceptions they make. You love them as kids. We kind of develop a philosophy. Every place I’ve ever been we want to have a family atmosphere. Treat them as our sons. If that player was your son, how would you coach him and how you want him coached. How would you care about him off the football field. I just think that’s what makes the relationship richer, deeper, and makes them better.

 HH: You went from a top-ranked college program to the pros and then back to college. Is it true you enjoy coaching college better, and if so, what about your experience in the pros has helped you the most at UNC?

The ten years I spent in the National Football League I really enjoyed every single one of them. I learned a great deal. Each of those 10 years helped me become a better coach. I necessarily don’t say I like one any more than the other. I love being around athletes. I love being around football players.  There certainly are differences between the 2 levels. College obviously you’re truly in a position to help the kids grow and mature. Get a college education. You can be some somewhat of a mentor to young, incoming 17, 18, 19 year old kids their freshman and sophomore years. Obviously, in the National Football league…it’s a business…it’s a job. It’s a little bit more difficult. The second stint in Cleveland was a little more difficult than the first stint in Dallas from the standpoint of salary camps and free agency and the struggles of building a football team that a lot of times you don’t have to face certainly in college or in Dallas in the pre-salary cap, free agent years.

HH: When coaching the Browns, you edged out a 17-13 win against Joe Gibbs...any memories from that game? 

It was Joe’s 1st year back. I’ve had so much respect for Joe from being a coach in Dallas when Joe was at the Redskins. He set the model for the NFC East for if you wanted to win a championship and get into the playoffs, you had to somewhat go through Washington in the 80’s and early 90s. You knew his team was going to be well prepared. What helped our football team was our previous, prior experience against Washington which really helped our players gain a little bit of a competitive advantage in that we had a pretty good grasp schematically of the offense they were going to do and it allowed our defense to have a very good day and it certainly contributed to a win.

 I'll post the recruitment stories of CP, Moss, and Sean Taylor tomorrow. I got to chat with Santana about my conservation with Butch Davis and all the recruitment stories. Stay tuned.