Stanford football coach Greg Roman carries the title of Associate head coach and assistant coach in charge of the offense, tight ends and tackles. That should keep him busy this year. There is a bumper crop of tight ends to work with, competition at the right tackle position and an offense that should be able to put up some points with sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm. July is vacation time for the coaching staff, but Coach Roman was nice enough to take some time out from his vacation to chat with me about Stanford football on the phone
Q: Coby Fleener is the most experienced coming back, one would think he would have a large role in the offense. Tell me about his game both positively and also what he needs to take that next step this year?
Coby is maturing all the time as a football player and a person and that is great to see. I think the football program that Coach Harbaugh has laid out here has done a great job of nurturing Fleener to the point that I would consider that he has become a mature competitor. Physically Coby is a very, very fast linear type of player that can go from point A to point B in a real hurry. He is more of a long stride type of player. The longer he runs the faster he is going to run. Coby is a very viable threat through the seams. Any vertical stem route he is very, very good at. He has great length. One of my favorite abilities for any tight end is he catches it well.. They have to be dependable catchers. You have to be able to make all kinds of catches on all kinds of throws in all kinds of traffic. There are some tight ends that I have coached for that I have actually told them, if you catch the ball and put the ball down where you catch it, we can live with that. There is no such statistic as run after drop. So catch the ball! Coby does a fine, fine job at that. Coby has some very good strength. He is wrapped tight. He really made good strides as a blocker last year which was exciting to see. So hopefully he can put it all together this year. We are certainly counting on it. I would say he has to work on all parts of his game, but he has made huge strides.
Q: What about Konrad Reuland?
Konrad is another veteran competitor coming back. Konrad made huge strides last year. He had to learn so many different positions. Last spring I knew what he was going through and I sympathized with him to a certain extent. He did a fine job of it. Hopefully he can take another step this year and really improve in all areas. He is a pretty good all around player. He does everything pretty well. We would like to see him do everything very well. He is a smart guy. He just has to put it together this year, it is that simple.
Q: One of the standouts of spring ball I thought was Levine Toilolo. What has he shown you and what does he need to really focus on?
Levine really needs to be as consistent as he possibly can. I have nothing but great things to say about what Levine was able to do this spring in terms of making strides. So now what is the next challenge for a guy like Levine? The next challenge is to continue to get better through training camp. Stay healthy and productive. Then go out on a consistent basis, week to week in the Pac-10 and play at a high level. That is what I am talking about when I talk about being a mature competitor. Not having flash plays or being a flash player where you flash on this play or that play, but other plays are just mediocre. What we want here, are guys that go out on every single play and get the job done. That is a process and Levine is just about ready to get into that process. I made a comment last summer to Jimmy Dray. ‘Jim, you should not have one bad play this year. That is the expectation level. So go out one play at a time and have a successful play and then go have another successful play because you are more than capable of doing that.’ That is something for Levine, who is a redshirt freshman that has never played a real live snap, that will be a challenge. The other thing he needs to do is to continue working on his strength. Two years ago he was playing high school football. Now he will be playing against the best defenders the Pac-10 has to offer.
Q: What about Zach Ertz? He is another one that I don’t think I ever saw him drop the ball during spring football. Again, what are his strengths and what does he need to work on?
Zach surprised me a little bit. He is a more well rounded player than I ever thought he would be. Zach is really, really working hard in the weight room with Coaches Turley and Tolbert in our strength program on all aspects of his physical development. Flexibility, explosion, strength, speed, change of direction, all of those things and he has improved in all those areas. Zach has some very good natural instincts for the position. He is a very competitive, tough minded young man. What that means, when he goes out there and makes a mistake, he is going to learn from it and not make it again. If he can continue to work at that level, he can have a very bright future.
Zach is the kind of guy, based on what he has done right now, that you would want to throw the ball to on fourth down. That should sum it up about him in a nutshell. Much like Levine, he has to prove it on Saturdays and that is no easy task. Zach needs to go earn a spot. He needs to carve out a role this summer for himself and once the season starts he just needs to go do it.
Q: How about Ryan Hewitt? We saw him moved to the fullback position in spring, but he also played some H-back, how did you like what you saw out him in spring ball and what do you expect in training camp?
I think the way you explained it is probably accurate. He is a fullback, H-back, tight end. He can do a lot of different things. We really like Ryan. Ryan is a good athlete. He does a lot of good things. He bends extremely well. He can play in a low position. Ryan had a lot on his plate this spring and dealt with it very well. As spring wore on he got better and better which is exciting to see. I think Ryan is going to be able to give us a lot of value in terms of different roles he can play. That is a good thing. It gives us some personnel flexibility.
Q: When you talk to the fan base, everyone asks how are you going to replace Toby Gerhart? When you talk to the coaches, they say how are we going to replace Toby Gerhart and Jimmy Dray? How do you replace Dray? Who do you expect to do it or will everyone step up?
I have said this before. Jimmy Dray was one of the most underrated players I saw last year. Jim was not a flashy player so he did not get the publicity that other people did. But don’t take Jim Dray for granted for one second. He dominated people. He did not just block people, he dominated them. There were some things he did to some players in the Pac-10 that they will not forget for quite awhile. He went about his business and set a great example for everybody. He did his job all the time. That is what we all need to do, take care of our jobs. Who is going to replace him? I don’t know that you do. But everyone has to, as they say, grab and oar and we will figure out the best way to scheme things up without a Jim Dray. I will say this, a lot of the guys we talked about, some of those young guys all have a chance to be that type of player. It is a matter of when do they want to become those players. The sooner the better is what I say.
Q: You have a lot of depth at the tight end position, let’s hope for and assume good health, how many tight ends can you really use on a regular rotation? Can you find enough plays to get everyone in there or will you focus on two or three of them?
That is a great question. They will all have a role if they show they can do certain things well. I don’t think we can sit here and say, only three of them are going to play and the other guys are going to sit on the shelf. If they can play they are going to play. How much? We’ll see. That is up to them to decide based on their performance. I think they will each have a little bit of a niche. We’ll see as training camp proceeds. There is going to be a lot of competition. We are going to have the best 11 players on the field. Who those 11 players are, that is a great question. Coach Harbaugh’s philosophy is every day you are competing for a job. So one day it could be three of them, the next day could be two different ones thrown in there. Our philosophy is if you can play and help the team doing something, then you are going to have a chance to do that. Because a lot of players play, they may not have 60-70 plays a game but they may have 10-15-20 per game where they have a very specific task or job that week. I think they can all play. Now how much? That is up to them.
Q: Jordan Najvar transferred to Baylor this offseason. Is that a product of being closer to home or something on the team? What was the reason?
I think he wanted to be closer to home and at the same time he saw some of the guys that were in front of him and he decided the most comfortable place was back home. We wish him the best. He is a super young guy.
GREG ROMAN PART 1
GREG ROMAN PART 2
GREG ROMAN PART 3
GREG ROMAN PART 4