Q & A with SFA Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson
April 10, 2008
NACOGDOCHES - Q: You were involved in one of the most memorable games in college football this past season at Millsaps College ... the infamous game against Trinity that ended on the play with 15 laterals. Explain what was going through your mind as the play was happening, and how you felt once the game was over?
A: It was just a surreal feeling. They had 70 yards to go to score, and only two seconds on the clock. I thought we were going to tackle the kid. We came close a lot. On the final pitch, I saw the kid break through. It was such an amazing effort on their part just to make the play. It was a flattening feeling, because I went from the highest point to the lowest point in a matter of seconds. During the middle of the play, we have fireworks going off, our crowd thought the game was over, and 15 or 20 seconds later we lose the conference championship.
Following the game, I started processing offensively what took place. A lot of people don't know that during the game we threw three interceptions inside the 10-yard line. The game should not have been that close, and I felt exceptionally bad because of that.
Q: Does it give you any solace as a coach to know that it took such a crazy play to beat your team, or does that make it worse?
A: After the game is over with, you've got to have a short-term memory or that will kill you as a coach. If you look at everything, we beat them throughout the game, but they beat us right at the end. That's why you have to play four quarters all the way to the final horn. It gives me a little comfort to know we played well enough to win the game.
Q: You are bringing a new-look offense to Nacogdoches that fans have never seen from a Lumberjack football team. What can SFA fans expect from your offense?
A: We are going to play at a different tempo than what a lot of people are used to. We are going no huddle, which doesn't necessarily mean we're going like a two-minute no huddle the whole game. We are just going to be getting on the ball quicker. There will be times when we change and go real fast; but, we're going to get up on the line of scrimmage, the quarterback is going to call the play and we're going to execute it. That limits what the defense can do, because they can't huddle and get personnel groupings.
That's probably going to be the biggest change. The pas-to-run ratio is going to be different in our offense, because we're a pass first offense. That's not necessarily saying we won't run the football, but we are going to set up the run with the pass.
Q: What is the toughest part about trying to insert a new offense?
A: There is a learning curve when you install this offense. This will be my fourth time to install it. The first two times were with Coach (Hal) Mumme. So, I have to think back to the beginning of those times because it has always been bumpy at first. Everything is different from the way you attack, to the protections. When everybody gets on the same page it's going to be good, but it's going to take a while, and that's why you practice.
Q: SFA has had only one scrimmage to this point during spring camp, but how do you feel the transition has been?
A: The transition to the new offense here has been about usual, like everywhere else. We're not going to be running smooth at this point. Our first scrimmage, which was just our fourth practice, was typical. The defense was ahead of us, and we had a hard time moving the football. We gave up some sacks, because the protection normally takes the longest to get into place. I have a friend who is installing the offense at the University of Houston this season, and his squad gave up 15 sacks in their second scrimmage.
You can look around the nation at the people that are running this offense, and they've all had to overcome the same hurdles. The key is to be patient, keep doing what you're doing because it's all going to work out. It's a learning curve that has to take place. Like I told the guys after the scrimmage, Rome was not built in a day. If we think we can go out there and operate this as smooth as we have at other places after two or three years, then we're fooling ourselves.
The learning curve does take a little while, but that's why you go through spring practice and two-a-days. By the time we suit up against Langston hopefully we'll be running this well enough to produce some touchdowns.
Q: A lot has been made of the team's youth heading into the 2008 season. Is it a good feeling, for an offensive coordinator, to know that you're going to have the majority of these guys around for 2-3 years to learn this system?
A: It's very a good feeling. I think the personnel that is in place here is good, and they just have to learn the system. But the good thing is, we have these kids for two and three years.
I can remember when (Texas) Tech first started it, they had four fifth-year quarterbacks stacked in a row during the first few years. We're going to have some carry-over at offensive line, receiver, quarterback and running back. So that is going to help.
Q: When instituting a new system, how important is it to have a young quarterback, like Jeremy Moses, who led a similar system in high school, and is familiar with the playbook?
A: Having a quarterback already in place who knows the system definitely helps. Moses is ahead of the other guys right now because of that. He played in this offense in high school, and he has a good concept of what we want. He knows all the plays, and how they develop and the reads, so now it comes down to repetition.
That's not necessarily saying that we don't have a competition taking place at quarterback, because we want to get better. Right now, it does help the whole offense having that quarterback who has a grasp of what is going.