It's hard to pack more experience into a shorter amount of time than what Jake Spavital did in his 20's. A former Missouri State quarterback, Spavital spent the past seven seasons working with or alongside Gus Malzahn, Dana Holgorsen, Mike Gundy, Kliff Kingsbury, and Kevin Sumlin, rising from a quality control assistant at Tulsa to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in the SEC.
With his 30th birthday approaching Friday, FootballScoop spoke with the not-as-young-as-he-used-to-be about his new co-workers at Texas A&M, managing one of the most talented quarterback rooms in college football and, yes, satellite camps.
You turn 30 on Friday. How's it feel to be old and washed up? (laughs) It feels the same, to be honest with you, but it's kind of funny how you put it that way. I was giving our special teams coordinator a hard time about turning 40, and I'm sitting here turning 30 on Friday. It goes by fast. I don't fee like I'm 30, I feel like I'm 45.
What have you learned now that you wish you knew at 26? When your opportunity comes, you better hit it running. I was very fortunate to be around some really good coaches - Coach Sumlin and Kliff (Kingsbury) and Dana (Holgorsen) - there's a lot of them now. They had a lot of success and then my opportunity came. You've got to hit it running. You've got to take advantage of it.
How has Dave Christensen, Aaron Moorehead and John Chavis helped evolve the A&M offense? A lot. Coach Christensen has been in a spread offense his entire career so he brings a lot of experience to the table on that end. He's bringing a lot of added dimensions in the run game, which is going to help us out. And Coach Moorehead, he played in the NFL, he relates to the kids so well, he was a Super Bowl ring and he's a technician. When you go up against Coach Chavis and some of the defenses in the SEC that are going to be press man right up in your face, you've got to get down to your technique and Coach Moorehead brings a ton of that to the table. They all have something that they're good at and we're meshing it together so we can all start working on this.
I imagine it has to be an embarrassment of riches for you to have a former FBS head coach and a guy who happened to be an offensive coordinator in two different Power Five conferences as your offensive line coach. The thing is, there is no egos in our room. I'm big on working together. I ask him a ton of questions because he's been in situations that I've never been in. Bringing his ideas and meshing his ideas with what we do offensively, I think we're putting together something pretty good. With the experience that he's been through, not just dealing with on-the-field stuff but with off-the-field stuff on how he's handled situations with players in the past I think it's good for everybody, even Coach Sumlin.
How much input did you have to the defensive coordinator search? Really none. Coach Sumlin and Justin Moore, our football operations guy, they were like Fort Knox with that because if you tell one person it's just going to get out. You had an idea, but the main thing is Coach Sumlin wants someone that's going to mesh with everybody. Getting Chief, he brings a physical, very aggressive mentality and he's been great to work with. I didn't really have any input with it. We all know that Coach Sumlin is going to hire the right guy that is going to put us in the best position to win.
When did you first meet Chief once he came on board? We were out on the road. He came in, it was a recruiting function, actually, because he got hired when we were out running - we didn't have an o-line coach, a defensive coordinator, we didn't have a receiver coach, so me and Jeff Banks, we were recruiting everybody. I was out on the road Saturday to Saturday morning, seven days. I'd come in and meet Chief on the recruiting dinners for the kids that were on their official visits so I got an opportunity to sit down and talk with him. He's been great and it's been fun working with him. Again, he doesn't have an ego about anything. He wants us all to have the most success we possibly can have. He comes and tells me if I need to slow the tempo down or maybe speed it up. If I have any concerns about stuff I'm more than willing to go talk to him about it.
You mentioned holding the recruiting class together. What was that period like? Were you familiarizing yourself with guys that you maybe weren't the lead recruiter for up until that point? It was pretty hectic. You're going around and we've got all these offensive line commits, some of them are mid-year guys that are about to show up for school and they're about to have a new offensive line coach. We went around and pretty much saw all the committed guys and just assured them that everything's going to be good. On top of that we were still trying to lock down Kyler Murray, our quarterback signee and there some other guys in the mix - there's a defensive guy named Daylon Mack - that we were just all kind of working it through. We all had to piggyback off of each other and just take the slack up for the amount of coaches we had out there on the road.
How will the 2015 Texas A&M offense look than the 2014 Aggie offense? There's still going to be a lot of similarities. I think we've sat down and tried to put a bigger emphasis on the run game and hopefully try to evolve that because I believe we've got some pretty good running backs and we need to be more efficient in the run game, just so we don't have to put those quarterbacks in such bad situations on 3rd-and-long where everybody knows that we're going to have to throw it. What you're going to see is that we're going to get down to the nuts and bolts of the thing and try to run the ball more efficiently.
Does that mean running the ball more often or just running it more effectively on the carries you do call? I want to see more touches. What I've done is, those quarterbacks, in the past we'd give them a lot of freedom. If they have the opportunity to get the ball on the perimeter on a called run play so they can throw their bubble screens and their stick routes and all that. I've kind of changed up their thinking where if I'm calling run I want you to hand the ball off unless it's just a really bad look. I'm taking a little pressure off the quarterbacks where we can try to establish a running game and make sure those running backs get some touches.
How are you going to handle the very different skill sets you have at quarterback between Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray? Some of the run game stuff we're trying to do can be beneficial for Kyler. It's going to be interesting. I always take those freshmen quarterbacks and I throw them in the fire. I always give them the opportunity to win the starting job if they can handle it or not. It's going to be interesting to see him go out there and compete. They are two different style of guys. Kyle's a pocket passer, he's got some athletic ability where he can keep the play alive but you're not going to ask him to rush a lot. I think Kyler can do a lot of that now. It's going to be a guy who has the command and the presence out there. Once we figure out who the starter is going to be you start basing your game plan on what they do right, what they do best, just start basing that around them.
Could you envision your quarterback situation mirroring what Florida did in 2006 with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow? You know, I don't know. Kyler hasn't even been on campus yet, he comes here in June. I think he'll be able to operate and go, you just never know until you get in here and let them go but I can definitely see if a kid's ready to play implementing packages in for him. He is a talented kid.
Murray also has considerable options in baseball, where he projects to be a first-round pick this summer. Are you devoting any time to a contingency plan if he chooses baseball? You'll deal with it when it comes along. If he has that opportunity to go make that amount of money, that's great for him. That's awesome that he would be able to be a first-round draft pick and make a lot of money. I'm not really looking too far into it. We do have other plans of who we're going to rep at quarterback if it does get to that situation. I'm looking forward to him coming to Texas A&M.
I get why kids would want to play at A&M and in that offense, but at the end of the day there's only one football. What's the pitch you're making to quarterback recruits in 2016, 2017 and beyond? I only tell them they have the opportunity to compete and win the starting job. Always going to give them that opportunity. The thing about it is, I never guarantee them playing time, I never guarantee them anything. The only thing that I allow them to do is compete for a starting job. I think what we're doing here at Texas A&M offensively, being in the SEC and from a facilities standpoint, these kids want to come and play here. I try to find guys that are going to fit in with us and kind of mesh with our personalities and just go from there with it. Tell them, 'Hey man, you can come in and compete. If not, you can come in and eventually be the guy, have a successful career and move on.'
Satellite camps are the controversy of the moment in college football right now. What's your stance on the issue? For us, we're not allowed to do any traveling camps. I think it's good for anybody. You'll be surprised, maybe there's a kid that hasn't been looked at clearly, he goes in there and he gets a scholarship offer. I think that helps him out, I think that increases the exposure for all of these kids. I think that's pretty cool you've got guys from up north coming to Texas, trying to get in this state. It just shows you where we're at with this state and how much talent we've got in it.