'What's the theme? Run the ball. Run the football!' An hour with Art Kehoe
- by Zach Barnett 6 months ago
It was unpolished. It was filled with words I can't print on this website. It was awesome. "If you're looking for a sophisticated lecture, this won't be it," Art Kehoe told a group of several hundred coaches Sunday night at the AFCA Convention in Indianapolis. He wasn't lying.
The last time Kehoe coached a game, his Miami Hurricanes lost the Russell Athletic Bowl 36-9 to Louisville. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was sacked four times, and the Hurricanes were credited for 14 rushing yards on 28 carries. The Miami offense went three-and-out five times, had three drives end in a turnover on downs or a fumble, and were shutout until the fourth quarter. It was not a good performance for Miami's offensive line, and Kehoe clearly arrived at the Indiana Convention Center with it fresh on his mind. "Ass-whooping humiliate you," Kehoe said. "They teach you, you better go look at the film."
Kehoe started his presentation by demonstrating his idea of the proper stance. I should mention the temperature outside was in the 20's, and Kehoe was in a green short-sleeved Miami coaching shirt and orange shorts. "Toes in, heels out. Why? You want to be able to transfer weight," Kehoe said. "Put the fat of your forearms on the fat of your thighs."
After demonstrating the proper and improper ways to step out of that stance, Kehoe's breath starting getting heavy, and sweat began to emerge on his face. He was not provided a glass, so Kehoe drank the water provided him straight from the pitcher. "I wish this was beer," he said.
A 1982 Miami graduate, Kehoe has worked for the Miami football program for the vast majority of his adult life. He played in 1979-80, worked as an undergraduate assistant in 1981, a graduate assistant from 1982-84, then as a full-time assistant from 1985-2007. After five years away from south Florida - two at Ole Miss and three with the UFL's California Redwoods - Kehoe returned to Miami in 2011 to work under Al Golden, his sixth Miami head coach.
Kehoe is 55 years old and, as many 55 years olds do, tends to not see eye-to-eye on the things valued by the 18- and 19-year-olds he coaches and the 16- and 17-year-olds he recruits. "Don't tell me you're a center or a left tackle. Tell me you're an offensive lineman and we've got five spots for you.Go tell Bill Belichick you're not going to play right guard," Kehoe said. "In recruiting you hear, 'Oh, he's a five star.' Then you watch the film and he's an I-want-to-puke-in-a-bucket star. He can't move."
"Here's a pet peeve of mine," Kehoe said, unprompted. "These guys put on their gear, these small shoulder pads, these titanium helmets and neck rolls, then you watch film and your right guard has his head down. I want his head up so he can see blitz indicators if he's uncovered."
On the field, Kehoe is very passionate about what he's passionate about. For instance, three-foot splits. "I want leverage, and the only way to create it is with splits." Kehoe is new to the up-tempo spread offense that has engulfed college football, but has quickly seen its benefits, like a guy whose 10-year-old just taught him how to use an iPad.
There were a lot of things that got Kehoe to raise his voice, but nothing bothers him more than defensive linemen or backside defenders making tackles. He's not a believer in combination blocks because, and I'm paraphrasing here, if a lineman is supposed to slip off from a defensive lineman to a linebacker, he will completely ignore the lineman and focus solely on the linebacker. And, Kehoe argued, if two offensive linemen double-teaming a defensive lineman do their job, it would be tough for the linebacker to make the play, anyway.
As for backside defenders? "Make sure you're blocking the black side and the guys the running back can't see because they're the guys that make all the tackles," Kehoe said, shouting by now. "Why didn't we get that guy cut? Why didn't we get that guy sealed?"
I don't know how many tackles a backside defender or defensive lineman made against Miami this season, but I get the sense any number greater than zero was too high for Kehoe. He referred to Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson as "a badass" a number of times, and the idea of anyone other than a play-side linebacker or defensive back tackling Johnson was too much for Kehoe.
"If you're going to win championships, your ass better run the ball. You run the ball or you don't run the ball, everybody's responsible," Kehoe said. "What's the theme? Run the ball. Run the football!"
By the time Kehoe's hour came to a close, I began to hypothesize that he shaved his head not as a response to male-pattern baldness, but that he pulled it out from years and years of improper stances, right guards asking to play left tackle, and backside defensive lineman making one too many tackles. And I also hypothesized that Kehoe loved every single minute of it.