Illinois coach a fan of Pats' Vollmer, Kaczur

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
6:25
AM ET

Joe Gilbert was walking through the football offices at the University of Illinois on Sunday evening when, on one of the televisions, he spotted New England Patriots left tackle Matt Light being helped off the field in a game against the Broncos.

Now, Gilbert doesn't wish ill upon anyone, but he couldn't help but be a bit excited when rookie Sebastian Vollmer jogged onto the field to take Light's place.

"I saw Light go down and figured this is going to be Seabass' shot," Gilbert said. "Sure enough, here comes No. 76 and I'm thinking, 'This is pretty cool. I've got both tackles for the Patriots.' I felt pretty good about myself then."

Gilbert, currently the offensive line coach for the Fighting Illini, previously coached Vollmer at the University of Houston and Patriots starting right tackle Nick Kaczur at the University of Toledo.

We didn't get a chance to catch up with Gilbert before writing on Vollmer and Kaczur on Wednesday, but he spent a few minutes chatting about his former charges as he trekked to Chicago for a recruiting trip Thursday evening.

Here's some of the Q&A about Vollmer (whom he affectionately calls "Seabass") and Kaczur:

Did you ever think you'd have the two potential starting tackles on the New England Patriots?

Gilbert: "It's funny: When Seabass called me the night he got drafted, I was kind of shocked. I thought maybe they were bringing him in with the idea of eventually replacing Nick. I was talking with a scout and they said, 'No, they brought him in to be a backup for Matt [Light]. Nick signed a four-year deal this offseason, so now Seabass has a chance to back him up, too. … It really is a neat thing on Sunday to look up and see numbers 76 and 77 as the two bookends on the line in New England."

Were there similarities between Kaczur and Vollmer at the college level?

Gilbert: "They both had great practice ethics in college. Neither one really would say boo; they were both very quiet. But they were both great kids and they practiced their tails off. It was a pleasure to have both of them on the field. Both had their pluses and minuses in their skill sets, but their work ethic and how hard they practiced was very much the same."

If the Patriots move Kaczur to left tackle and start Vollmer on the right side, what's the hardest part of flip-flopping from their more natural positions?

Gilbert: "The biggest thing, in my opinion, is the footwork. Changing from left to right, it's easy enough to reverse the calls. A guy like Nick has been in the system; that won't be an issue for him. Plus, Nick spent his entire college career at left tackle. From that standpoint, I don't think that'll be an issue. But he's been at right tackle so long now, that, from a footwork standpoint, that's where you might have a little more of an issue."

Many pundits felt the Patriots "reached" to draft Vollmer in the second round. Were you surprised he went on the first day?

Gilbert: "In my opinion, he was a late second round, early third selection. I didn't see him being a late-round guy by any means. The Patriots saw that. I try to follow the NFL a little bit, and it seems the Patriots always do a great job getting guys like Sebastian and Nick that -- they're maybe not from the top SEC schools, but they're the top guys at a small program and have the ability [to play in the NFL]. It's a credit to the organization."

What are your impressions of Vollmer so far this season?

Gilbert: "My wife and I flipped on the NFL Network the other night and watched the last part of the [Denver] game. Let me tell you: He played pretty damn well. If Sebastian takes care of business, he's going to be a starter in this league for a long time."

So, who's the next Joe Gilbert-tutored lineman the Patriots should draft?

Gilbert:"We've got a senior here at Illinois named Jon Asamoah. Jon's an interior guy, but he's a lot like [Vollmer and Kaczur]. He's a hard worker, doesn't say much, but he's a smart kid with a 4.0 GPA, and he's got heart, toughness, and he's physical out there on the field. The Patriots have had one or two guys out here to look at him. He'd be a good fit in New England."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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