Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
October 1, 2020
Q: When you have a kick returner, whose call is it to take it out of the endzone? Is that totally up to him? Is that totally up to you guys or maybe some mix of the two.
A: No, we give them instructions prior to going out into the field. During the course of a game stuff happens, players make mistakes. It just happens sometimes. Corey [Ballentine] is a young player and he made a mistake. It is what it is. It’s not something that we’re going to kill ourselves about. It’s just make sure you’re learning from that mistake and not being a repeat offender.
Q: [Head Coach] Joe [Judge] was talking a lot about how he looks at [Johnny] Hekker as a quarterback at punter. Do you have to have your vice guys extra on guard?
A: Absolutely. You look at the history of this guy, their fake history is extensive. It’s just the way he plays the game. You always have to be alert for that, that’s our job as coaches. To make sure we put our players in the best position to where they can succeed. Obviously, Johnny Hekker is a heck of a player and an outstanding athlete.
Q: It seemed like you came close to blocking a couple of their kicks last week. Was that something you saw that you wanted to take advantage of or it just kind of developed like that?
A: It was a combination of both. We have a lot of confidence in our guys. Leonard [Williams], Dex [Dexter Lawrence II] and Dalvin [Tomlinson] and Lorenzo [Carter] and Corey, all those guys do a great job. They play hard from start to finish. They’re the right kind of people. We’re just playing football; we’re out there trying to make a play for our team. They rushed hard from the very first one to the very last. It really tells you a lot about who they are as people and as competitors.
Q: Are they using Hekker any differently now that they switched coordinators? They still have pretty much the same arsenal with him.
A: We’ve only played a couple games. I’m sure throughout the season it will show up because that guy is a weapon. He’s a guy that can throw it, he can make all the throws at any point in time on the field. I’m sure at some point in time it’s going to show up.
Q: With Jabrill [Pepper], who is your next up as a punt returner and did you see anything on the play where he got injured unusual that happened?
A: I don’t see anything unusual that happened. Just kind of a freak deal. We have a few guys back there that have been practicing. We have options there. You guys have been around this program for the last three or four years, you know we’re always going to have a guy back there that’s capable of doing it and be ready to go. I didn’t see anything crazy with Jabrill’s injury. It was kind of one of those deals, but he’ll be back. He’s a tough guy, he’ll be back.
Q: On Jabrill, how much does he play into your special teams? Obviously, punt returner but how big of a job is it replacing him?
A: Any time you have a player of Jabrill’s caliber that you have to replace, obviously it’s going to take a few guys to replace him because he did a bunch of different jobs. He meant a lot to our football team and he means a lot to our football team that’s why he has a C on his chest. It’s hard to replace that guy but you just do the best you can, and the guys are going to step up. These young guys are going to step up and fill some of those roles and we’re going to keep plugging. We’ll see what happens. Those young guys will step up and they will do a good job.
Q: Aside from Golden [Tate], who else are your options and punt returner at this point? Obviously Shep’s [Sterling Shepard] not there, Jabrill may not be there.
A: I can’t give you all my secrets. We have a couple other options. C.J. [Board] is back there, Darius Slayton is back there. We have a bunch of other options. Guys that have been out there that’s been catching punts every day since training camp. We have full confidence in those guys and whoever we put in the game; they will do a good job.
Q: Do you think [Levine] Toilolo is a willing blocker? A couple kick returns last week where I don’t know if he didn’t know who he was supposed to block or what was going on. You have a lot of young guys; you can’t afford veterans not to do their job right?
A: You said it right, he didn’t know who he was supposed to block. Keep doing your job. He’s a more than willing blocker. We had a couple mistakes up front that he had to make up for. He has to be very cautious in how he approaches a front line because the rule is you cannot engage from back line player, I can’t engage with a front line blocker because it’s an illegal double team. He has to make sure that he has the ability to avoid at any point in time. If I make any contact either incidental contact or on purpose I can be flagged. He’s a more than willing blocker. He does a good job; we have to do a better job.
Q: If the first guy down the field is already being blocked, he has to avoid that? He has to wait and see if he’s going to be free because then he can block him.
A: Absolutely. That particular play, he was supposed to block someone else and that guy just showed up in his face. That’s his rule, he’s not going to ever let opposite color cross his face. He knows in that situation, that guy shows up, he’s the most dangerous guy, he’s right in front of me so I have to block him. If I let him go, his unabated to the runner. That’s the rule.