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Coach-to-coach mailbag: Matt Campbell

On Monday we asked coaches to submit questions they would like to ask Toledo head coach Matt Campbell. We collected the cream of the crop and provided them to Campbell, who gave the following answers.

Questions & Answers

1. You took over for Tim Beckman before the bowl game in 2011. With Coach Beckman taking a handful of guys with him from Toledo to Illinois, how did you and Tim handle that time period, with regards to knowing which guys were sticking around and which new coaches you'd need to hire?

Matt Campbell -The time frame and situation for me getting the head coaching job at Toledo was certainly unique. There was only a three day window between the time that Coach Beckman got the job at Illinois and I was named head coach here at Toledo which helped for a smooth transition in where our program was headed. Once I was named head coach, my number one priority was to help our kids and to ensure the brightest future for our program here in Toledo. The coaches that we knew were heading to Illinois left immediately to start recruiting there and help Coach Beckman. Those who remained at Toledo shifted our focus to winning the bowl game and to solidify our recruiting class. We elevated a couple of graduate assistants for the bowl game as well as brought in our new offensive line coach, Tom Manning, who had previously been our graduate assistant and just finished coaching in the National Championship Game for Mount Union. My focus during bowl prep was to minimize the feeling of change around our players prior to the game. We had a great group of senior players and a team who had put together a great season and I wanted to do everything I could to give us the best chance to win the game. Once the bowl game was over, I re-evaluated our coaching staff and what permanent hires we would make moving forward with our program.

2.What was the biggest first-year challenge you faced at such a young age?

Campbell -The greatest challenge in year one was my overall level of experience as a head coach and adjusting to the time constraints that accompany the position. As a position coach and coordinator your time and schedule stayed fairly consistent. When you want to immerse yourself in the film room, you can and you are able to keep a consistent schedule and agenda. As the head coach, maintaining your schedule and agenda is a constant challenge. You continuously get pulled in numerous directions but no matter which way you are pulled, your vision must always go back to your team and the future of the program. I believe this is something I have and will continue to get better at with experience.

3.There are a lot of your former teammates at MU on your staff at Toledo, How important is trust and familiarity for your team?

Campbell -I believe when you are building a program the two key words that you look at when hiring anyone that touches your program are trust and vision. Whether it is a strength coach, academic coordinator, video coordinator, graduate assistant or coaching staff member, the number one question I ask myself is will he/she earn the trust of myself, staff and players and does he/she believe in the vision of our football program. I was fortunate to have worked with the coaches on our staff from Mount Union outside of our time as players there. I knew wholeheartedly that the qualities that these gentlemen and their families brought to our program fit where we wanted to go with our Rocket family.

4.How do you balance your time between both sides of the ball? How much of your offense do you install during the spring? Do you work core concepts or try to get as much stuff in as you can?

Campbell - I am fortunate to have a great staff with three great coordinators who I really trust. Jason Candle on offense, Tom Matukewitz on defense, and Stan Watson with special teams all do a tremendous job for us. Having great coordinators and trust in their roles allows me to roam during practice and meetings and maintain my focus on unifying our football team. During the season, I will watch all three phases of the film and give a general overview of how I feel I can help our team win that week. I typically work more with special teams and defense early in the week, and shift my focus to the offense midweek. At practice I am all over the field spending time with all phases of the game. Having been on both sides of the ball in playing defense and coaching on offense has really helped me be an asset to our team. 

Spring practice is a time to get really good at the foundation of our offense, defense, and special teams and hone our skills at each position. We will take 2 or 3 practices at the end of spring to try some new concepts that we have researched over the winter that fits our players and team.

5.One of the toughest aspects of the job is coaching coaches. What advice do you have for young coaches in Head/Coordinator positions when it comes to coaching veteran coaches? How do you find that balance between collaboration and loyalty to how you want the program run?

Campbell - I truly believe that whether you are head coach or a coordinator, your coaching staff must always present a unified agenda and game plan to your players, regardless of the age or experience of your group. No matter what the age or age gap there may be in the room of coaches, whoever is in charge must have clear and concise vision of what they want to get accomplished. Once the goal or vision is set, you must be open to the ideas in the room and adjust your plan accordingly. The greatest mistake any staff member can make is believing that they have all the answers. Collaboration and knowing your staff and what each person brings to the table assists your role as a leader to help them make the greatest impact on the overall goal and vision. Once collaboration is finished, ultimately it is your job to sum it up and present it to the staff and team in the clearest language possible. It is also your job to make sure that everyone who is coaching or teaching that game plan is speaking the same language and remains unified in coaching the players to have the greatest success as a team.

6. Coach Campbell, what is something you wish you had been more prepared for early in your career?

Campbell - I don’t know if there is anything in particular that I would have liked to have been more prepared for early in my career but I always fell back on the advice of my mentors. The best advice I received really early on in football was no matter what job you have you must act as if it is the last job you will ever have, learn and grow as much as you possibly can. The other tip I received is to always put yourself around great people. I have been very blessed to have spent time with some the best coaches in the game at an early age. From a head coach like Larry Kehres whose ability to build and sustain a program is unmatched in the game of college football, to an innovator offensively in Gregg Brandon and defensively in Tim Beckman. I have also been blessed to learn from individuals like Greg Studrawa, Mick McCall, and Scott Satterfield who are some of the best people and coaches in the business. You have to constantly be willing to learn from your experiences, both good and bad, but ultimately build your own philosophy that stays true to who you are.