Kevin Bullis: The Coach
If you were to describe your offensive philosophy as a coach, what would you say?
To me the thing that Whitewater has done is become a team that can run the football. We can run the football on anybody. It is vital that we can run the football, but we NOT going to be one dimensional. We are going to be a balanced offense. Jim Zebrowski did that, Steve Dinkel did that, Andy Kotelnicki did that, and now Craig Smith is going to do that. We will continue to be a zone run team. We will zone inside and zone outside, but we will also be able to throw the ball well.
Having said that, is Craig Smith going to put his stamp on this offense? He is going to and he had better. I told him that. If you put on film, Zebrowsi, Dinkel, and Kotelnicki all put their stamp on this offense. And I told Craig I don’t want him being any of them. The foundation is there and won’t be strayed from, but Craig will add to it.
Coach Smith comes from an offense that ran a lot of read-option. Is he going to instill a read-option offense here?
I think when the general public thinks of the read-option, they think of the plays where a QB makes a read and either gives the ball to the running back or keeps it and runs. We do actually run a read-option, but in a different sense. Our quarterback will be reading the defense and he will either give the ball to a running back or he will throw the ball. We will still use a read option principle but our quarterback is not going to be a runner. If you think of the standard option play with a pitch, the pitch part of it for us is throwing the football. And the play that is run is based on the quarterback’s read of the defense.
Do you foresee any differences in the type of athlete UW-W recruits on the offense side of that ball as compared to the last 8 years?
Not at all. Philosophically, we will be going after the same type of athlete we have been going after.
Can we expect any changes in the defensive philosophy?
I told the same thing to Rob that I did to Craig. I told him he can’t try to be Brian Borland. And the neat thing is that Brian told him the same thing. We will run the same fundamental defense, but as Brian told Rob, “You have to run this as your defense, not mine.” We will run a 4-3 defense. Obviously, as in the past, there will be variations on that, but we will be a base 4-3 defense. But Rob needs to put his own stamp on that defense. Our defense needs to reflect Rob’s personality. Otherwise it becomes very conflicting for a coach trying to be someone else.
There will be some new wrinkles. Rob will bring some of his own nuances and creativity to our defense, but a large majority of it will be the same.
Will it be hard for you to not have as much hands-on coaching with players as you did as a position coach?
I still want to feed that part of my coaching to a degree. In my position now, I have a lot more guys popping in on me during the course of a day. I like that part of it because I have interaction with a bigger pool of players. I’m still going to play a role. John O’Grady will be our special teams’ coach but I have an assignment on our punt team. I have an assignment on our punt return team. I want to have some of that. I will still walk by the D-Line and take a drill here and there. Pete Kishline (Defensive Line Coach), knows that. But it is Pete’s D-Line. I told Pete, “You know you are coaching my old position, so you are going to get some input from me.” But I am definitely going to let him coach.
If there is someone who isn’t familiar with you reading this article, what other things you would want them to know about you or how you coach?
As I think about coaching and our staff, we are going to coach with energy and we are going to coach with tempo. We have got to keep the energy up. If we go out there with high energy and enjoy what we are doing and have fun, the players will do the same. Now there are times when we will have to get on people a little bit, but we want to bring a positive energy every day that the players feed off of.
In coaching the players, I want us to coach with concrete information. That is something that Coach O’Grady talks about and Lance was the same way. Give the player concrete information. One of my pet peeves is when someone yells at a player for messing up without telling them what they did wrong. Yelling “Make a tackle” or “Catch the ball” is not particularly helpful if you don’t follow up and tell the player what he did wrong.
I don’t want sarcasm to be a part of how we coach. I don’t think that leads to a positive environment. I really struggle with sarcasm. About the only time sarcasm fits in is when you are getting together with old college buddies messing around. But other than that, I can’t think of too many contexts sarcasm is a good thing.
We have never been a big wind sprint team. We will run sometimes on Tuesdays, but for the most part, we don’t do a lot of sprinting. What we do expect is every play and every drill during practice to be run at 100%. We want players to play hard and fast and when you run a play or drill hard, you are creating muscle memory.
One of the vital keys to coaching is attention to detail. We pay great attention to detail on every technique as coaches. We are setting the execution bar at perfection. We are always striving for perfection. We know we will never get it, but that means we can always get better. We can always improve. And we will always keep striving to get batter every day, every practice, every drill. I have coached two-time All-Americans. When we are going into the 15th game of the season, their last game, I will criticize them as much as I criticize a guy in his second year. Why? Because you can always get better! Players can always get better and coaches can always get better. The day you stop striving to become better as a coach is the day it is time to retire.