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Bill Bedenbaugh Q&A
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OU's new offensive line coach talks about his first few months on the job
When Bill Bedenbaugh signed on for his first college coaching job at Oklahoma Panhandle State in tiny Goodwell, Okla., any thoughts of working at a place like the University of Oklahoma probably seemed a bit farfetched at the time. Then again, anyone who knows Bedenbaugh never doubted that his passion and dedication for the game would eventually take him wherever he wanted to go.
And some 18 years after Bedenbaugh began his coaching career in the Sooner State, he has returned to help the Sooners shore up their offensive line and add to another successful chapter of the tradition-rich history at OU.
Sooner Spectator caught up with Bedenbaugh between recruiting trips recently to talk about his new job and his life as a coach.
Sooner Spectator: What has been your biggest challenge since joining Bob Stoopsí OU staff earlier this year?
Bill Bedenbaugh: I donít really know that there are any real challenges other than just getting to know your players and the players getting to know you ó and building those relationships. It always takes a little time to fit in with a new staff and your new surroundings, but I knew Coach Stoops before coming here ó also worked with Mike (Stoops) and worked with Tim Kish at Arizona. I knew Josh (Heupel) and Cale (Gundy), so there was a lot of familiarity with the program. I see it as a great opportunity where I basically just need to settle into my role on the staff and do my job.
SS: Besides coaching against OU during stints at West Virginia and Texas Tech, you mentioned being on Mike Stoopsí staff at Arizona. How does that make the whole transition easier?
Bedenbaugh: Anytime you go into a new situation, itís always about change and fitting in and bringing some of your ideas that will possibly help. The fact that I know so many of the guys on this staff and they know me definitely makes the transition here easier. Some of us have worked together and have built a relationship over time, so thatís always an advantage when you are new to a program.
SS: Can you talk a little about your first coaching job in Oklahoma back in 1995?
Bedenbaugh: (laughing) Yes, my first college job was coaching at Panhandle State up in Goodwell, and to be honest, it was a great experience for me. It was a situation where my head coach at Iowa Wesleyan went to Panhandle State to be the offensive coordinator and I was about to get into high school coaching. But he called me up a week or two before they were starting two-a-days and asked me if I wanted to come down and be the offensive line coach. I knew nothing about the school but jumped at the opportunity. It was a small school that didnít have a lot of money, so it was almost a volunteer-type situation. Heck, I wasnít really ready for it but it was a great experience because I got lot of on-the-job training that really helped get my coaching career started.
SS: Youíve been at OU for a few months now and had the chance to watch your guys go through spring practice. Do you like what youíve seen so far?
Bedenbaugh: Yes. I really like this group of players a bunch. Itís probably the smartest group of guys Iíve dealt with during my time as a coach. They are eager to learn and work extremely hard to be great at what they do. Thatís a huge deal. Itís so important for players to truly have a burning desire and passion to be a great offensive lineman. Itís a tough, thankless job where you donít get a bunch of credit for doing your job well. It can be a real grind both mentally and physically so you have to be tough. And again, you have to study the game and know your assignments, know your role and be smart about how you do things. We had a few guys hurt who didnít go through spring, but overall, I really like what Iíve seen from everyone in this group and Iím anxious to see all of them together on the field this fall.
SS: Does the fact that OU will have a more mobile quarterback as the starter change anything for the offensive line going into the 2013 season?
Bedenbaugh: No, not really. Thatís a question you hear a lot when you start looking at different quarterbacks and different running backs. But to be honest, that doesnít change anything for the offensive line. There is a launch point for every single quarterback and you block based on where that launch point is based on every play. And regardless of who the running back is, the play is designed to go to a certain point and thatís how you set up your blocking.
SS: Does the fact that OU runs a more up-tempo style of offense create a situation where you need more depth up front than say an offense that works slower and out of a huddle?
Bedenbaugh: You always want to have good depth no matter what offense you run. If we are healthy, we are going to have some really good depth up there. The problem is, we just didnít have all of our guys working and practicing during the spring due to injuries. Thatís why Iím looking forward to getting some of those guys back and seeing some of the guys we have coming in this fall, because I think we have a fairly deep group that has a lot of potential. Very rarely are you going to have 10 guys who can make a big impact on the line. But if you have eight offensive linemen who can play and who are effective and can help, then you are looking at a pretty good situation. And I think thatís where weíll be this fall.
SS: If you were building the perfect offensive lineman, what are some of the key components you would start with?
Bedenbaugh: Three things right off the bat ó athletic, tough and smart. Obviously, the size requirements are key. You canít be 5-11 and 190 pounds and be an effective offensive lineman. So having some good size is a given. If they have size and they are athletic, tough and smart ó then itís my job to develop them, make them players. I feel if you have those three components, you can be an excellent offensive lineman if you have the passion for it. Of course, there are other things you look for like long arms, flexibility, mobility ó all of those types of things. But the intangibles like smarts and toughness are really, really critical.
SS: Besides knowing some of the coaches here, how familiar were you with OU football in general before taking this job?
Bedenbaugh: Very familiar. I was at Texas Tech for seven years and I recruited this area a bunch during that time. Part of recruiting is knowing your opponents and knowing who you are recruiting against, so I became very familiar with Oklahoma and the program here. Plus being a college football guy, you watch the best programs and what they are doing. Iíve always kept up with the Sooners. The crazy thing about OU is you think you know about the tradition and all of the great things theyíve done here ó the national championships, the Heismans and stuff like that ó but thereís so much I didnít know. I learn new stuff basically every day like OU being the only school with four head coaches with at least 100 wins. Honestly, there are so many positives here that you continue to build on as a program every day.
SS: You not only coached with Mike Leach at Texas Tech but you played for him at Iowa Wesleyan. What did you take away from those experiences and what kind of influence did he have on you?
Bedenbaugh: The biggest thing with Coach (Leach) is seeing how he prepares on a daily basis and his mental approach to the game ó how heís always attacking and has no fears when it comes to executing his game plan. Heís a student of the game and goes into every situation prepared. And he always does such a great job of having his players prepared. I learned so much just watching him on a daily basis, seeing his approach to the game and how he handled certain situations.
SS: You have earned a reputation as being an excellent recruiter. What does it take to be a good recruiter in college football these days?
Bedenbaugh: I think the number one thing is being relentless. I think that applies to anything you do in life. Obviously, you have to be able to develop relationships and get to know kids inside and out. You have to understand how they tick and why they are going to make certain decisions. You canít take no for an answer but even more importantly, donít put a kid in a situation where he can say no. Of course, you are not going to get every player you recruit. Thatís just part of the job. But you have to work at it all the time and be passionate about it.
(Editor's Note: This interview appears in the June 2013 issue of Sooner Spectator. For more information or to subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)