In The Huddle With ... Running Backs Coach Jay Boulware
Sept. 11, 2004
This is the fourth installment of a weekly column that will take you inside the minds of Stanford's assistant football coaches. Each week we will converse with an assistant coach to provide an inside look an area of the team. This week we sit down with running backs coach Jay Boulware.
by Janelle Kwietkauski
JK: Can you talk about your players? What do each of them bring to the group?
JB: We have about five players in our rotation right now and they all bring something a little bit different. J.R. Lemon is a physical running back. He's the heartbeat of our group. I really enjoy his intensity and his competitiveness. He's an excellent student-athlete. Kenny Tolon is a compliment to Lemon at running back. He's an outstanding runner, and an elusive and quick player. Ray Jones is an up-and-coming freshman. He's doing an excellent job in grasping the offense and the fundamentals that we teach. Patrick Danahy is a fullback/tight end guy that brings versatility to our offense. Not only is he a great blocker, he's a great pass catcher. He brings a lot to the table in that regard. Kris Bonifas is a physical blocker. He's an intelligent player and he uses really good techniques.
JK: How do you feel about the performance of the running backs against San Jose State?
JB: I felt we did okay. I think there is still plenty of room for improvement. All three of the backs that played the majority of the snaps ran really hard. I didn't feel like they missed any cuts, and I felt like our protection was adequate. I think we have areas of improvement that we can make. I think our running style will continue to improve.
JK: What are your expectations of the running backs?
JB: I expect us to be good downhill runners. I expect us to be able to pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield. If a player has all three of those, then he has an opportunity to play for us on the field because you have to be able to do them all. They have to be able to protect the passer. I think protection is very important. I think they have to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield. The most important thing they do is run the ball, and they've been doing that well. They have to get to the right point of attack, take the right steps, and make the right reads. Those are the things I harp on more than anything else.
JK: What are the strengths of the running backs as a group?
JB: Diversity is their main strength. I think they are the best group I've ever worked with hands down. I think if our style was to pound it out one game, then we could do that. If we need to be pass receivers for a given game then I think we can do that. If we have to protect and make sure (quarterback) Trent Edwards doesn't take any hits, then I think we can do that as well. I believe the diversity and the versatility within the group is our biggest strength. I've never been around a group of guys that is more talented than this group of guys.
JK: You commented that J.R. Lemon is the heartbeat. What does that mean to this group?
JB: I believe we go as J.R. goes. All through the spring and conditioning period the pace that he set for us in terms of how we work was phenomenal. You have guys that aren't at his level right now in terms of how they work but they are striving to be there. I always have a bar, which J.R. sets. All the other guys try to keep up with him. He makes us go. It's his work ethic that keeps our group striving to be at that level. J.R. is constantly raising the bar. He is very much our leader and the heartbeat of our group. We go as J.R. goes.
JK: How has your playing experience at the University of Texas helped you as a coach?
JB: I think it's helped me in a number of different ways. I was around a diverse group of people. I befriended all kinds of different guys. I think it's helped me with the guys that I coach. All of my players are different and respond to different types of coaching. Being around a diverse group of guys has shown me how to respond differently to different personalities. Obviously, the playing experience in itself has helped. I know what it's like to have your heart beating 100 mph. You go out there the first play of the game and you feel like you're almost out of breath, yet you keep going because your conditioning level is high. It's really exciting for me when I have a freshman that has never been out there on the field. I can tell him about that feeling. Then he comes off the field and will say, 'Yeah, I see what you're talking about,' and his eyes are all big. That's the really exciting part about the game, knowing that feeling of getting out there and competing at this level. The game is so fast and you find that you are going 100 mph. It's really exciting. It's a big rush. That's what my playing experience has mainly brought to me.
JK: After your playing career ended in college, you stayed on as a coach. The teams you have been a part of have been very successful. How has this helped you coming to Stanford?
JB: I think that every place you go you learn something. You take the good and the bad and you evaluate it. You add things to your repertoire. I've learned something at every place I've been. I've learned things both on and off the field. Those are the types of things that I think has made me a well-rounded coach and made me understand the players that are playing for me. I think I've grown so much in the brief time that I've been an assistant. I am continuing to grow. That's one thing that Coach Teevens is always saying. He gives us the opportunity to get out and learn more about football. I think that's outstanding. I really enjoy growing and having the chance to go places and learn new ideas.