New South Alabama Offensive Coordinator Robert Matthews is a busy man. Between meeting with the all the other staff members, finding a new home for his wife Laura (who is expecting the couple’s first child in April) and the myriad of other tasks a new coach must take on, he managed to find a few minutes to speak with JagsJungle.com about his expectations at his new job.
On the type of offense he plans to implement
“We’ll be a no-huddle spread attack, but saying that we’re spread is a really a misconception because we want to run the football and we want to have great balance. We’ll be an up-tempo offense with the ability to change the tempo to try to keep the defense on their toes as much as possible and being able to change up when we snap the ball, while we snap the ball, and really put ourselves in the best offensive play we can to get yards. You guys have seen Oklahoma State over the last five or six years and obviously you’ve watched Southern Miss over the last two years and it’ll be a variation of what you’ve seen there: High tempo, multiple formations, play action. It really is going to come down to being able to keep balance between the run and pass game, protect the football and protect the quarterback. That’s the foundation of where this offense will start.”
Will the passing game be predicated on throwing the ball quickly?
“There’s no question, but we want elements of both. We’ll have some elements of getting rid of the ball as fast as we can but we are going to throw the ball downfield. I’m a big fan of high percentage throws and catching the football but at the same time you’ve got to take shots downfield when the defense gives you that opportunity. But I would say that you will see a lot of the high percentage passing game, but that doesn’t mean we won’t throw the ball down the field as well.”
On the perception that USM and Oklahoma State are primarily passing teams
“I’ve been at Southern Miss for two seasons and we led Conference USA in rushing both years and at Oklahoma State, the four years I was there, we led the Big 12 in rushing those four years. Everyone gets the concept in their heads of the spread that you throw the ball all over the place and we will throw the ball some and take advantage of quick strikes and perimeter screens but at the same time we are going to run the football and that’s going to be an emphasis of the whole offense. It’s not only the responsibility of the offensive line and the running backs, but it’s the responsibility of the quarterbacks and the receivers. Everybody doing their part blocking and carrying out fakes and making the play go, to make sure that we are a good running team.”
Is a fullback used in the running game?
“There can be a fullback (used), depending on who’s on the roster, but I’d say 75% of the time it’s going to be a one-back type set. We’ll also get wide receivers involved in the run game by bringing guys in motion, handing the ball off to them on speed-sweep concepts and some read plays, but I would say that there won’t be a fullback in the game most of the time.”
Have you had a chance to evaluate any of the South Alabama players?
“I haven’t had a chance to watch any film on them. That is something I will do starting Monday and I’ll see what they can do. I hear we have some good running backs and some quarterbacks that can throw the ball. We have an offensive philosophy but we’re going to pick the things that fit our talent. I’m not going to ask the quarterback to make throws that he’s not able to make, we’re not going to ask wide receivers to do things that they’re not able to do. So when I say what we’re going to do on offense, I can’t tell you specific plays. I know what we’re going to do series-wise and I know what we’re going to do concept-wise but what great coaches do, and we’ll do this as a staff, is ask our players to do what they can be successful at. So, watching film and studying the quarterbacks and seeing what the running backs can do, that’ll be important, but that’s also what spring ball is for. We don’t play until September, so we’re going to take spring ball and get everybody evaluated and get everybody familiar with our scheme so we can really have a good plan of attack going into the summer and know exactly who our playmakers will be and who we can depend on in September.”
On recruiting responsibilities
“Different places do it different ways. We haven’t sat down and gone over those yet. I love to recruit. It’s something that I have a strong background in both at Oklahoma State and Southern Miss and I want to be able to utilize that at South Alabama. I have connections throughout the southeast and throughout the midwest now from my time in Stillwater, so I know I will be utilized in recruiting. I’m ready to go full speed ahead with it, but I can’t tell you exactly where those areas will be. Really, the month of January will be shoring up your signing class. By this time everyone kind of has their targets, they have their commitments, maybe you’re working for one or two more guys. So I would think this last month is just going to visit specific guys and it probably won’t be too area-based as far as I’m concerned.”
Speaking with Coach Matthews was a real pleasure and I think that Jag fans are going to be very impressed when they have a chance to hear him themselves. He will be a strong addition to the USA staff and another reason to face 2012 and beyond with great optimism.