Q&A with new LBs coach David Blackwell
USF made new linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator David Blackwell, hired on Thursday, available to the media with a teleconference on Tuesday afternoon. Sounds like I was the only one that called in for it, but I wanted to post a transcript to give you a better sense of Blackwell, who comes to USF after six years as linebackers coach at Clemson. Blackwell has a strong recruiting background, especially in Florida, and he'll have a busy two weeks of drills when the Bulls resume spring practice on Monday.
Q: You've only had a few days since returning to Tampa on Sunday, but how are things going getting to know a new coaching staff here at USF?
A: It's going great. Obviously, I got in on Sunday and have really just been here two days. The staff's been unbelievable as far as helping me along, showing how things work. They're a great group of guys and I've really enjoyed it so far.
Q: Are there coaches on the staff that you've worked with or know through coaching circles?
A: A few that I've run into recruiting, things like that. A few guys I've known through other people. My brother (Joe) worked with John Hendrick at South Carolina State. I'd met a few guys before, but never worked with anyone.
Q: Take me through the timeline of when you first heard from Jim Leavitt and how quickly things progressed.
A: Coach Leavitt called, I think, Tuesday last week. Asked permission from Coach (Dabo) Swinney, talked to me, did everything the right way, above board. He never talked to me or contacted me before that, and it kind of went from there. There was mutual interest.
Q: Once the new coaching staff had taken shape there at Clemson, what was your attitude in terms of how aggressively you were looking for a fresh start somewhere else?
A: As the thing went down there at Clemson, we hired an outstanding staff. Coach Swinney is an awesome guy, great friend of mine, and I think, will be an outstanding head football coach. We brought in Kevin Steele and Charlie Harbison from the outside. Both had been coordinators before. Kevin, obviously, was at Alabama, Charlie at Mississippi State, and they were outstanding football coaches. I was very excited about working with them, and throughout my few months there with those guys, it was going to be a very close-knit staff. I thought we worked really well together. I had told Coach Swinney from the beginning, because he was concerned about me having opportunities, that I wasn't interested in making a lateral move, was interested in bettering myself, in position to one day be a head football coach. It'd take a special type of job for me to leave. This was a job that had always intrigued me. I think the potential is high. You've got some outstanding people, and I think obviously what's happened here in 12 years is amazing.
Q: Tell me how comfortable you are recruiting in the state of Florida. It seems like you've done that at several stops along your coaching career. Who are some of the bigger guys you've gotten out of Florida?
A: When I was at Pittsburgh, I recruited (linebackers) H.B. Blades out of Plantation High and Clint Session out of Killian High School. They're both in the NFL now from Pittsburgh. We had several kids when I was at Pitt from the South Florida area. When I was at Illinois State, I recruited Aveion Cason out of St. Pete Lakewood, who is in the NFL still. Brian Bruch was the coach at the time. Armando Andrade was a young man out of St. Pete Lakewood also we recruited up at Illinois State, was a great player for us. Leonard Reliford was another St. Pete kid that started for us. There have been several through the years.
At Illinois State, I had the I-4 corridor, from Daytona Beach over to St. Pete. When I went to Pitt, I had Dade County and Broward County. At Clemson, I've had a large portion of South Carolina and have dabbled a little in South Florida. Chris Chancellor was one we signed out of Edison High School who will end up being a four-year starter for us at corner, who has the potential to be a fairly high draft pick next year. Just an outstanding football player and a great young man. It's just one of three or four states in the country that is a hotbed for recruiting -- Texas, California and Florida are probably the three people are going to talk about the most as far as producing elite-level athletes. I'm excited about being in an in-state school and having the opportunity to recruit this state.
Q: Coaching linebackers is where you've had most of your experience. I wanted to ask you that, and how the dynamic will work with you and Joe Tresey, with him being the defensive coordinator and you being co-coordinator?
A: Coaching linebackers is something I have a comfort zone doing. I've been doing it for 10 years, going back to Illinois State. I coached the outside backers at East Carolina. I was comfortable coaching the front, and have been comfortable coaching the front. I've always thought, if you can coach, you can coach. I worked for Walt Harris, and that's something he said all the time: Good coaches can coach anything. It's just a matter of getting comfortable and applying yourself.
As far as Coach Tresey, Coach Tresey is the defensive coordinator. He'll do an outstanding job. I'm very excited about working with him and Kevin (Patrick), and Jared (Lube) and Patrick (St. Louis), our graduate assistants, are outstanding. We've got a great defensive staff, and I think just here in the few days we've been working together, it's going to be a very cohesive staff. The guys really work together, and obviously everyone will have a lot of input. Joe is the front man for it, so I don't see any problems.
Q: Have you been able to meet many of the linebackers you'll be working with?
A: When I came down and interviewed for the job and looked around, I got the chance to see them practice and met most of them then. To actually sit down and visit with them, things like that, I've been able to call the recruits that we signed, but I'm still in the learning process as far as getting to know people.
Q: What is the most important thing this spring as far as implementing a new defense as much as possible before the end of spring drills?
A: I just think we've got to get to know each other. We are implementing a new defense. Getting to know kids and just continuing to get better. They've set a high standard around here defensively, so we've just got to continue to improve each day.