It took a little while, but I finally got in touch with the newest member of Jim Tressel's staff at Ohio State. Stan Drayton is back in familiar surroundings -- he grew up in Cleveland -- but is taking on an unfamiliar task of coaching wide receivers. Drayton played running back and has coached the position exclusively at the college level, most recently at Florida. He replaces Darrell Hazell, who left Ohio State to become head coach at Kent State.
Drayton will recruit locally in the Columbus area and also throughout Florida.
Check out Drayton's thoughts on several topics from our recent discussion.
How important was it for you to have a chance to be closer to home?
Stan Drayton: It played a big part in it. When you're at a place like Florida, you start looking for the intangibles. The final factor was the opportunity to coach another position. It's a huge move in the right direction for me to be able to get into something new, add a little versatility to my background. But my dad lives right here in Columbus. My sister, my kids' first cousins are here in Columbus. They're really, really close, so the opportunity to see their family members on a daily basis as opposed to one or two occasions throughout the year, it's awesome for them.
Were you looking to coach another position or even expand your role if you stayed at Florida?
SD: I wasn't looking for another situation by any stretch. [Will] Muschamp came in, I was really impressed with his approach and the kind of person he was and the staff he was putting together. I had a really good running back group coming back and I was really intrigued by Charlie Weis coming in there and the type of system that he runs, being able to learn from him. And then I get this call from coach Tressel throwing out this receiver deal and the more I thought about it, I just got so intrigued by it. He expressed how Earle Bruce gave him another position to coach, took him out of his comfort zone a little bit and how it's helped him as a ball coach. It really became very important for me to try to experience some of that. It became the deciding factor.
You've been around receivers and receivers coaches before. Have you reached out to any of them to get more insight on that position?
SD: I'm going to tap into somebody that I really know and trust, Ray Sherman, who's been coaching the receiver position for 36 years or something like that in the pros. I had the chance to be under his tutelage for three years when I was with the [Green Bay] Packers and learned a lot that way. I'm going to spend a lot of time with him, maybe go out and research other good receivers coaches around the country, both collegiate and NFL. And I'm really close to Donald Driver, so I'm going to sit down and try to get a player's perspective on receiver play, somebody who has had a tremendous amount of success at the position. A lot of times, what a coach will tell you and what a player will tell you about playing a position will really be two different things. I'm going to try and get as much information as I can from those people and move from there.
Personality wise, what's the biggest difference between running backs and wide receivers?
SD: If you would have asked me that as a running backs coach, I would have told you a totally different answer [laughs]. I need to be politically correct now. The game is physical for both positions, but there's a different type of physicality at running back. You've got blitz pickup, which is a very violent deal. You're dealing with a little bit closer parameters when you're running the football. You get yourself a lot of times in a little bit more space as a receiver. The skill set and the things you develop as an athlete are a little different, but once the ball is in your hands, you're a ball carrier, whether you're a running back or a receiver. You need to have a mentality of a ball carrier. But it's a little different mind-set.
Me transitioning from a running backs coach to a receivers coach, already my scope and the way I see the game has widened that much more to the perimeter. With the running backs, our focus was a little more on the box awareness and safety locations and not all the way out to the corners. There were times we had to pick up corner pressures and stuff like that, but on a play-by-play basis, my vision has to expand a little bit wider to the perimeter, which has been really, really fun.
How much film have you watched on the team from last year and the guys in your position group?
SD: Been watching a bunch of film. That's pretty much all we've been doing. We're a young receiver corps and we've got some challenges coming our way. But they're a very talented group. Not very experienced as far as playing time, but very, very capable of being productive in this system. We've got our work cut out for us, but at the same time I'm very encouraged by the talent and the skill we have at that position.
There's always competition, but you lose Dane [Sanzenbacher], a very productive player, and DeVier [Posey] will be out for a while. How much competition will there be with your group this spring?
SD: A bunch. There's a bunch of young guys trying to get on the football field and most of them are unproven, so the competition is to earn your right. Not only are they competing against each other, but they're going to be competing against the extra tight end who may come into the game and take their spot if they're not functional and productive enough, or the extra running back who could potentially come into the ballgame and take their position. Personnel wise, they're in competition with the whole offensive unit.
We've got our work cut out for us, but the mind-set these young men have, the work ethic, from what I'm hearing from [the other Ohio State] coaches, is really, really promising for their success in the near future. So I'm excited to see what they bring to the table this spring.
You're an Ohio guy but you also spent time in the SEC. There's still talk about the difference in the types of players down there versus the Big Ten. Do you sense a difference, especially with speed and athleticism, between the Ohio State guys and the guys you coached at Florida or faced at places like Alabama?
SD: There are some differences here and there, but there's such a difference systematically that I'm involved in right now. Florida and Ohio State, they're totally different mind-sets schematically. Ohio State has recruited to fit their system, and it's not the same system Florida is going to recruit to fit. Here, it's no big deal having a 235-pound running back in this offense that's going to get downhill in the iso play, as opposed to a jet sweep team where you want to get a 10.2 guy. There's not too many 10.2, 235-pound guys out there. But you've got a Jeff Demps, who's 190 pounds and can get out there and run that speed sweep. So both programs have done a phenomenal job of recruiting the athletes that fit their system.
Does Ohio State have athletes who can play at Florida? Absolutely. They've got some speed on this team. They're a little bit faster than you think, the quarterback can run. One of my receivers, Corey Brown from Philadelphia, is a 10.3 100-meter guy. We've got some guys who can flat-out run. And the same thing down at Florida. There are some guys down there who can play here at Ohio State. So from that standpoint, it's a little different, but I think both programs have done a really good job of recruiting the people who are going to fit their system.