March 2, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. -
After serving as wide receivers' coach last year, Pep Hamilton was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the 2011 campaign.
As wide receivers coach, Stanford boasted one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation last season, despite being without the services of talented junior Chris Owusu for most of the season. A total of 17 players caught passes, including 10 who hauled in at least one touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Andrew Luck.
Stanford's wide receivers and tight ends combined to catch a school-record 32 touchdowns in 2010, as Stanford set single-season record for scoring (524), scoring average (40.3) and total offense (6,142).
GoStanford.com recently caught up with Pep to get his thoughts on his new role and Stanford's offense as spring practice nears the midway point.
A lot of different coaches had responsibilities in play-calling last year. Will that system continue this year?
Just like last year, I'll be upstairs. What we had going on last year between myself, David and Coach Harbaugh in the passing game worked very well. I handled basically the base passes in the red zone and Coach Shaw called third-down plays - and we were really good at third down last year. We would like to keep that part of it going. Our overall theme is to keep as much continuity for No. 12 as we can.
I first thought it (multiple play-callers) was ambitious, but the coaches on the offensive staff are very capable and know exactly how we wanted to implement our offensive strategy from week to week. Greg Roman and I sat next to each other in the press box and we got to the point where we communicating by eye code and hand signals - we were that in sync. If there was ever a tug-a-war, Jim would have the last say.
Comment on the progression of Andrew Luck?
If you look at the improvements he made from 2009 and last year, it's a natural evolution process for every quarterback, not just with Andrew. We'll take this time to do some self-scouting and to look at some fundamentals and technique issues. We've been able to identify some things Andrew can and will continue to improve on. He is a very conscientious young man, not just as a football player, but in his everyday life. Everything he takes on he does a great job in applying what he needs to in order to evolve.
Comment on the overall health of the offense?
We need to offset some production with the losses of Doug Baldwin, Ryan Whalen and some very good players upfront in Chase Beeler, Andrew Phillips and Derek Hall. We are a different unit but at the end of the day we are still going to get off the bus running power.
We need to continue to control the line of scrimmage. Every good quarterback I've ever been around has excelled because they have made the other team defend both the pass and run. We are still a run-first team. Consider the fact we possibly have the best player in college football on our team and at the end of the day, we need to create conflict for opponents by controlling the line of scrimmage and running downhill at people. Teams still need to defend Stepfan Taylor, Patch (Jeremy Stewart) and the rest of our running game.
On making adjustments during the game.
If you look back at the Orange Bowl game and the adjustments we made after the first half, the big plays Coby Fleener had came out off run-heavy formations. We have to continue to be balanced. That's the big part of the chess match for us. We strive for balance and to score every time we touch the football. It's like a heavyweight fight. We want to methodically wear you down.
Do you have any areas of concern heading into the season?
If there was an area of concern it would be we have a lot of young guys competing for starting spots. the guys who win those competitions have to understand the importance and respect the challenge that is ahead for them. When you have young players, they tend to over analyze things. As a coaching staff, we have to make the game practical for them. You just never know how young players will respond in big games. Games are completely different than practices. There are no repeat in games. It's just the unknown. We'll see how they respond to pressure.
Talk about the importance of the running game.
I think when you look at the core of our offensive unit, we feel good about our ability to run the football. One thing I think our backs did as well as anyone last year was they played very well without the ball. That's the key to playing the position. You have to understand different fronts. It gives us a certain level of comfort from a pass protection standpoint that all of these guys have field credibility.
Stanford loses three players off its offensive line from a year ago, but return two stalwarts in Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. Comment on the offensive line heading into spring ball.
Up front, we have two guys that are as good at their positions as anyone in the conference and maybe in the country in Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. They are the foundation of our front line. We have some guys who are very talented, athletic and smart and hopefully when given the opportunity they will step in and feel comfortable.
What are your thoughts on the wide receiver position?
Chris Owusu is a dynamic player who will make a lot of big plays for us when he's on the field. As far as the other two positions, Griff Whalen, Jamal-Rashad Patterson, Drew Terrell and Jemari Roberts - along with talented incoming freshmen - will all get long looks.
Comment on the loss if Owen Marecic.
We lost the best player in college football, in my opinion. If I had a Heisman vote, I would have voted for Owen Marecic. I've been around a lot of football players on a lot of different levels and I doubt if we will ever find a player with the endurance Owen had, along with his consistency and production. He was a special, special player.
What are some of your philosophies of teaching the quarterback position?
It's hard to find a coach with 15 years of proven NFL experience teaching the quarterback position, but at the same time, we are all a summation of our experiences. I've been fortunate to be around some very good coaches at the highest levels of football that all had different perspectives in developing quarterbacks. More importantly, the system we have in place at Stanford is very much the West Coast Offense. Seven out of my eight years in the NFL have been spent working in that system. Having worked with Paul Hackett, who was once the quarterbacks coach for Bill Walsh at the 49ers, I've tried to adopt many of the same processes he used at the Jets. I've also worked with both Turner brothers, Norv and Ron. Ron is a West Coast guy but Norv is a disciple of Ernie Zampese, who runs what's called the digit system. When you look at the 32 NFL teams, 18-20 run the West Coast Offense and the others run the digit system.
My tenure in the system and being around Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck, we want our system to evolve to the talent we have within the program.
Talk about working with Andrew Luck.
Regardless of who is in my position, Andrew will continue to develop and evolve as a quarterback. He is special in that way. He is a son of a quarterback and his self-discipline and drive pushes him to constantly study the game. We've been watching a lot of NFL film this off-season and our system here at Stanford is very much a pro-style offense. They are doing the same things we have implemented here, schematically, although the verbiage may be a little different.
Seeing is believing. We are watching a lot of Aaron Rogers, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees. For Andrew to see these guys go through the same progressions and manage the product on Sundays the same way we do, there is a lot of semblance and it has an impact on a lot of our players - not just the quarterback.