Checking in with ... Minnesota's Ted Roof, Part II


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's the second half of my interview with Minnesota's new defensive coordinator Ted Roof.

Of the three units on defense, was one further along than the others coming out of the spring?

Ted Roof: Our defensive line was a little bit further along because there was a lot more experience there. All four of those guys were returning starters. So from within the program, we were a little bit ahead at that position. And then at linebacker, we got some guys back, but Deon Hightower missed spring practice with injury. The position move with Steve Davis, I was real pleased. He had a great spring and has done a good job of leading, so I'm excited to see what happens with him. There were some things in the secondary that we did a good job with this spring. We've just got to keep growing.

What was your message to the guys this spring, and how did you see them responding to you?

TR: People have asked me about that a lot. Just staying on the fundamentals, how you defeat blocks, how you tackle, your pursuit angles, your communication. I want to be able to come in here and grade the tape on Sunday and the unforced errors, to diminish those or at least make them go down so it's not, 'Well, if this guy would have done this, this would have happened,' or, 'This guy should have been here but he wasn't because he did this.' Just like in all the other sports, tennis with the unforced errors, you don't want to beat yourself.

From talking to Steve Davis at media days, he mentioned how the team was close in so many games but at the end it would always fall apart. On defense, is that just conditioning and discipline, being able to play better at the end of games? How do you finish off those games?

TR: Whether you're a program trying to be respectable or a program that's one of the top two or three in the country, you have a successful season when you win your close games. When you don't win your close games, you have disappointing years. It's a lot of things. Sometimes it's the great player on the other team making a great play. But it's the same things that you draw up all the time, the discipline of being exactly where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there, and not getting caught up in, 'Well, this is the two-minute drill, this is the fourth quarter.' Just play the next play and then have amnesia and then play the next play, always be in the moment and not sit there watching the scoreboard. Just do your job and play hard and good things will happen.

Steve mentioned there was a lot more competition this spring, especially with the new guys. Do you have a timetable on that when you want to fill out those starting spots?

TR: It will play itself out, but that's probably one of the bigger things that's going to help our team, the competition for jobs and the competition for playing time. We'll be much improved in that regard, which should correlate to performing well on Saturdays.

Obviously every head coach wants to stay a head coach, but switching back to this kind of job, did you miss coaching a unit or a position?

TR: Obviously, I'd like to be a head coach again, but job titles are just titles. It's about relationships and coaching kids and trying to get better. Whether you're responsible for a room of five or a room of 50 or a room of 100, that's what it is. I've really enjoyed it. It's been a lot fun so far.

What is it about these types of challenges that draws you to them?

TR: You like challenges and opportunities where a lot of people don't think that you can do it or be successful. That just motivates you even further. That doesn't mean you're always going to do it, but I like those challenges and opportunities.