New RB coach uses experience to win over veteran group
When UH’s new running backs coach was fired from Houston’s professional football team, he saw an opportunity with the city’s collegiate squad. With more than 20 years of coaching experience in several positions, Dan Hammerschmidt was happy to remain home while continuing his career. Hammerschmidt spoke to The Daily Cougar about his philosophy and expectations from a talented, veteran position group.
The Daily Cougar: What drew you to the University of Houston?
Dan Hammerschmidt: I wanted to stay in Houston, first of all, and we got fired at the Texans. I knew (head coach) Tony (Levine) real well from when I coached at Rice before. But I wanted to stay to keep my kids here, and I like Houston, and, obviously, I knew this program was good. I got a chance to be with Case Keenum at the Texans this year. I was helping the QBs a little bit, but I knew who UH was, with a good program and good players on the rise and a good coaching staff. So I called Tony and I was fired up when I came.
TDC: Has the transition to UH been smooth?
DH: It’s been really good. I didn’t have to move. In coaching, when you don’t have to move, it’s a blessing. It’s been really good, and the running backs here are such great kids and leaders, like (redshirt junior Kenneth) Farrow, (junior Ryan) Jackson — the whole crew, really, and there’s a bunch of great kids. There’s not a bunch of messing around. They get serious and they work, and that’s the nicest thing, when you can go into a position and guys want to work and get better and get after it.
TDC: How do you think your experience comes into play when it comes to coaching young men?
DH: When I was 22 years old coaching defensive backs at Duke right out of college, I thought I knew everything and had every answer, thinking I was the best DB coach in the country. All of a sudden looking back on that, I didn’t know anything.
Experience is huge, and I have coordinated twice before and was an assistant head coach. I’ve done special teams twice and have coached six different positions. I coached QBs for seven years, and just to be able to tell the running backs, “Against this front, this is going to happen, so the hole’s probably going to be here.” So if you know what can happen before the snap — that’s where (Houston Texans running back) Arian Foster is such a great player. He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he’s really talented, because by studying tape and because he’s so smart, he knows every defense you’re going to do and he has a run down in his mind.
TDC: How skilled do you think the Cougars are at running back, and who do you see having a big impact this season?
DH: Obviously Farrow is a great player, and he’s earned everything he gets. He’s just a leader — he’s physical and smart. Jackson is really good and has the speed to burn, and he’s a worker too. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and (junior Justin) Hicks has been showing it out here as well. (Sophomore fullback) Tyler McCloskey is a man who nobody knew what the heck he could do. I thought he was just going to be a lead fullback, and he gets thrown into the role, and all of a sudden he’s a little Mike Alstott.
TDC: What are some key things that you’ve been telling these running backs?
DH: Pass protection is a huge deal, and if you can’t pass protect, your quarterback has no chance. Our backs have to protect a little bit because of our formations. With pass protection, you have to read a defense just like a quarterback knowing where they’re blitzing from. … You have to really read the defense just like your QB does pre-snap to be a good pass protector.
TDC: Do you believe these guys are buying into what you’ve been trying to teach them so far?
DH: I hope so. I’m sure they will — they’re great kids that work hard, and I’ve been coaching a long time, so what I have been telling them should work. They’re going to do fine, because they are workers, they’re tough and physical and they want to bring that mentality to the offense. They’re just those kinds of guys.