Oct. 1, 2004
This is the seventh installment of a weekly column that takes you inside the minds of Stanford's assistant football coaches. Each week we will converse with an assistant coach to provide an inside look at a particular area of the team. This week we sit down with tight ends coach George McDonald.
by Janelle Kwietkauski
JK: Can you talk about starter Alex Smith and the other tight ends? What does each of them bring to the table?
GM: Alex Smith is our senior tight end. He's a good leader for us at the tight end spot. He's probably one of the more athletic tight ends in the Pac-10 and maybe even in the country. Matt Traverso is a redshirt sophomore. He's going to be a very good tight end for us. He's a real physical blocker. He's the best run blocker that we have in the tight end group. Michael Horgan is a redshirt freshman. I believe he will be a very good player for us. Austin Gunder and Patrick Bowe are freshmen. I think they will both be good players. As a group, we probably have one of the best tight end units in the Pac-10.
JK: Alex Smith is currently first on the team in receptions with 14 and third on the team in receiving yards with 158. He is also one of four players to catch a touchdown pass. How do you feel about his performance and the rest of the tight ends' performances so far this season?
GM: I think Alex has had a pretty good season up to this point, but I think his best football is ahead of him. As we continue to get into the Pac-10 conference, he will have to step up his play to help us achieve our goals. Matt Traverso is the unsung hero right now. Without his blocking, I don't think we'd be where we are at as a team in terms of offensive productivity.
JK: What are your expectations of the tight ends?
GM: I expect them to be physical run blockers and also help us in the passing game. I think that as a tight end, your first goal is to help the run game. We have the luxury to have three very athletic tight ends that can also help the passing game and create good matchups with the defense.
JK: What are the strengths of the tight ends as a group?
GM: I think our strength as a group is the diversity that every tight end brings. Alex Smith is a good run blocker and also a very good receiver. Matt Traverso is a dominating run blocker and a good receiver. Michael Horgan is a combination of both Smith and Traverso. I think all three guys can create favorable matchups and problems for the defense.
JK: You mentioned Alex Smith is the leader of the group. How does his leadership help the others?
GM: I think it helps because the other players can see how he works and how he prepares. He is a senior with probable NFL chances in his future. The other players see that if you work hard, do all the little things, and pay attention to the detail, that by the time your senior year comes you can hopefully be in the same situation that Alex is in.
JK: You played football at the University of Illinois, where you are in the record books as a kickoff return specialist. You also ran track at Illinois and received First-Team All-Big 10 honors. How has this collegiate athletic experience helped you as a coach?
GM: I think that playing in the Big-10 has helped me relate to some of the day-to-day challenges that the players here are faced with. They have to deal with time management and are expected to go out and compete at a high level. I think that competing in two sports has helped me relate to the players in terms of managing their time. I can relate to them making sure they are not stretching themselves too thin but that they are focusing on all the things that are really important to them being successful student-athletes.
JK: You coached at Northern Illinois for three seasons. During those years, the team pulled off some big upsets. You have also coached at Ball State. What has this experience been like and how has this experience helped you coming to Stanford?
GM: I think the experience that I have had has taught me that if you work hard and if you are fundamentally sound, great things can happen. Being at Northern Illinois and beating Maryland, Iowa State, and Alabama taught me a lot. On paper they were more talented than us, but the players worked really hard and since they were all fundamentally sound, it gave us a chance to win those games. That's what I have been trying to instill here to the tight end group. If we are fundamentally sound and we play hard all the time, then we will have a great chance to help win every game.