Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter -- December 20, 2019
Q: Nick Gates, what have you seen from him in terms of the way heís progressed?
A: The thing I like about Nick Gates is heís got great football intelligence. There are some guys who get it and some guys who donít. He just understands football, so that allows him to play and do everything heís asked to do. Itís really complicated what heís asked to do right nowó because last year doesnít really count because he was on IR. Heís got to be able to be the third center, heís got to be the backup right and left guard, backup right and left tackle. So, heís got a lot of not only mental things to deal with, but heís got a lot of physical. Heís practicing all over the place. What I like about him is heís tough, heís smart, competitive, all of those things that you really canít coach. Those are innate things that he brought here with him. But he picks up technique really quick, he plays with balance, he plays with leverage. When he played inside at guard last week, he played with good leverage against some big, strong guysó the guy never touched the quarterback. Then the other week when he played at tackle, when he had to play, he can match an outside guyís athleticism. Itís hard to find a guy inside that can be physical versus these 320-pound defensive tackles and also be able to handle a guy with speed. But, before you become a starter, thatís your job is to play more than one position. You can only dress seven guys, so then once you become a starterÖhe will be a starter one day and when heís a starter and can just concentrate on one position, the sky is the limit for the guy. That guy has a lot to him.
Q: In an ideal world, what do you think is his best position?
A: I think his best position would probably either be inside at guard or right tackle. I think thatís where I think heíd be, inside. He does have the athleticism to play on the edge, doesnít always have the length that you might want to be on the edge. I think the right tackleÖbut actually, the game inside at the guard position, things happen so much quicker. The further you move away from the ball, the slower things happen. So, when youíre in there tight at the ball, everything happens really fast, and can you find a guy that can adjust and move to that. But I think inside at guard or right tackle, I think, are his positions. Heís always going to be a guy that can come in and be that backup or third center that you always need, and you always have to have on gameday. Hate to go into gamedays with only two guys that can snap the football.
Q: How do you think Mike Remmers has played this year?
A: I think after missing all of that time and coming back from that back surgery and he missed all of spring, and then he didnít practice. We had to hold him out a bunch at camp and everything. I think heís practiced pretty solid, played pretty solid. I think last week his guy never touched the quarterback. Itís been a long time since heís given up a sack. The thing that I like about Mike is heís 303-304, heís not a giant guy, but he plays with good leverage. What he is, he is so competitive and so tough and itís so important for him, he just overachieves every time heís in the game. Heís going to get his job done or die trying. I think heís been fairly productive. Heís much more productive than we probably thought he was going to be because going into the season, we thought it was going to be Chad Wheeler. I donít even know what zip code heís in right now. But Mike Remmers came in and heís been a really solid player for us. Heís a smart player, heís intelligent, heís got great natural leadership, too. He is the leader in the room.
Q: How do you think Will Hernandez has progressed this season?
A: Heís been up and down. I think heís done some good things. I think itís what happens with Will, like last week, letís say the guy had 68 plays, he had 68 plays, he had 64 really good ones and four bad ones, and all you remember is the four bad ones, and thatís me, too. I mean, Iím still seething that he missed a run-through on the short-yardage belly, missed a run-through. But then thereís other things, like I looked two weeks ago, he lined up against Fletcher Cox, who I think is one of the better defensive tackles in the league. I looked at the stats after the game and Fletcher Cox pretty much, and I donít want to give him anyóbut he did a good job against one of the better players in the league. So, heís done a good job against some really quality players this year. And then heís had a couple of his moments, but thatís anything. I think what happens with him, like all of the offensive linemen, when theyíre doing their job consistently, your eyes go to the other things. When theyíre doing their job consistently, weíre running the ball, weíre throwing, weíre catching, all that type of stuff. Itís when they have that bad play here or bad play there, thatís when it stands out. I think heís really grasped the game better, the gameís slowed down more mentally. I think he understands the system better in his second year, heís understanding the technique better in his second year. I think he has progressed, but again, itís an ongoing process. Is he where he needs to be? Heís far from the finished product, but heís moving in the right direction.
Q: Why do you think that people or even coaches tend to harp on those few missed plays?
A: Thatís our nature. Because you expect themófor an offensive lineman, your job as an offensive lineman is to play consistent. You can make a great play, like when we ran that load power for a touchdown, Nick Gates, who was supposed to be up inside, it collapsed, he bent outside, he saw two guys through, cut the guy, cut two guys. I mean, he made a big play. So, as an offensive lineman, you play consistent and solid and do your job, then once or twice thereís going to come a time when you have to make a big play in a game. Maybe itís a big pass protection, you either make it or you donít make it. And so, itís just the nature of me and of coaches, you expect those guys to be solid and do what theyíre supposed to do every single play. And youíre going to get beat, itís real football. But when you get beat, it canít be a disaster play. You may give up a pressure or a guy may get around you, but you canít give up a sack-fumble. You canít cut a guy loose and he hits the back and he causes a fumble inside. You canít do that. Thatís a game changing play. You canít have that, and thereís no excuse for that. A guy that has a game changing play on the offensive line, thatís a disaster. Itís no different than the quarterback throwing an interception or a running back fumbling. Itís that same thing, it changes the game.
Q: But just curious, when you have those four or five bad snaps per game for a guy, or a guy gives up a sack, whatís the process of going through the corrections and how much time do you spend?
A: We spend a lot. What we do is weíll go in, and itís easy, if thereís not a lack of effort, guys are easy to coach if thereís no lack of effort. Itís like when you raise your kid, if theyíre trying hard, you keep coaching them. And so, you look at the tape and thereís always a reason why. For example, when Will gave up that run-through, he came off and he tried to kill that three technique, and he played hard into the three technique, and his guy ran through. So, he didnít do what he was supposed to do, he tried toóhe didnít do his job. So, thereís a reason why that didnít happen, you address the reason, then when you get out on the practice field, you make sure you drill that, and when you script that, you script it so it happens again in practice so that he has to be able to adjust to that same run-through when it comes up again. And we scripted that run-through twice in practice and he picked it up. Everybody makes mistakes, but itís a crime if you donít learn from that mistake. Thatís why you study history, because history tends to repeat itself, right?
Q: Iím curious, so do you guys have like a correction day?
A: Monday. Every single Monday, we look through every snap. We watch every single snap. I coach five guys on every single snap on every single play, why this play worked, why this play didnít work, whatís the correction. When it worked, we did what was right. When it wasnít, how do we fix this to make sure that the next time it comes up, that it is correct, again.