Charles Clay averaged 19.7 yards per game in 2009, carrying the ball 63 times. He was the number three rusher on the team behind G.J. Kinne and Jamad Williams. Fans who have watched Clay since his freshman year certainly did not see that coming.
The big guy with arms the size of a lot of people's legs enters his senior year with a new running back coach. Meet the gentleman who will nurture Clay through 2010 and hopefully a healthy 14-game football season.
Archie McDaniel comes to Tulsa directly from Texas Southern University, where he coached his own college position, linebacker. He started for three years at Texas A&M, recording 57 and 83 tackles in the 2004 and 2005 seasons respectively.
After college, McDaniel spent a year on a coaching fellowship with the Houston Texans. Next stop was Trinity Valley Junior College for one year where he developed and mentored three all conference linebackers. Then came a year as an A&M grad assistant, and another year at Texas Southern, where his defense was ranked 22nd in the nation. Then on to Tulsa where, in a fascinating turn of events, he is coaching running backs.
The change makes sense. Who better to teach ball carriers how to avoid being tackled than someone who has an innate sense and proven track record of stopping them?
"One of the things my kids can benefit from the most is the information I can give them on how they are going to be attacked," said McDaniel. "From schematics to individual positions and specific techniques. When (the running backs) see this defensively, that's what they are taught to do, so this is what you need to be prepared to react to it.
"It's been real interesting to me to see at the college level, offensively, what (offenses) think about the things we used to do to them on defense. Now being on both sides of it, I'm getting a good grasp offensively how to attack a defense, and defensively knowing what an offense thinks about the looks we give them."
In 2005, Texas A&M Head Coach Dennis Franchione said of his player McDaniel: "Archie has been a very consistent player for us, great leader on our football team, a reason our defense can take another step here."
Coach McDaniel is a hands-on coach, but does he ever get in player mode and actually dish out what his running backs will see in a game?
"I'm a very involved coach," he explained. "One thing I do when you're talking about drill work and technique, the best way to teach it is for an athlete to physically see it versus drawing it up on a board. I get out there and mix it up a little bit.
"My back and my knees aren't what they used to be, so I try to limit myself, but I am still young, so on the field I'm very active."
McDaniel is a Houston native but happy to be at Tulsa.
"I really enjoy Tulsa," he said. "The people are friendly, I love everybody I work with, from the coaches to the secretaries to the coaches' families."
Recruiting-wise, the coach will handle the whole state of Arkansas as well as split the Houston area.
"Myself and Coach (Van) Malone will split up Houston. I'm taking the southern outskirts and the Golden Triangle and in to East Texas."
"Beaumont, Orange, and to the border between Texas and Louisiana," McDaniel described.
The million dollar question ($64,000 from the 1950's game show plus inflation) relates to Charles Clay.
"When you take a guy with his athleticism, his size, his speed, the ability to make plays in the passing game, he is a very unique player that not many schools in the country, if any, would have," said McDaniel. "He is a very, very high character young man -- a yes sir, no sir guy. He is just a tremendous athlete. The sky is the limit for him."
Clay is not going to be lost in any shuffle this year.
"To be successful on offense, you have to block, you have to score. Offenses have to pinpoint specific playmakers and get the ball in their hands. Charles Clay is one of our primary playmakers without a doubt."
Both McDaniel and Van Malone spent a year on a coaching fellowship early in their career.
"I was with the Texans organization in Houston," McDaniel stated. "I met guys like Coach Kubiak and Ray Rhodes, who is a Tulsa alum, and I keep in touch with them to this day. I saw how guys worked and how they took pride in their craft. I learned a lot from the administration standpoint to the coaching standpoint."
This was not just an opportunity to observe.
"We are a full-fledged member of the staff. We take part in all staff meetings, all evaluations. I worked specifically with the linebackers, individually, everyday. I sat in on all the linebackers meetings and worked hands on with them everyday in practice."
Archie McDaniel used the word "teach" numerous times during our interview. What can you teach a stable of backs that includes Clay, Willie Carter, Jamad Williams and others? Likely quite a bit, given the coach's rise from player to intern to defensive coach to running backs coach.
With a consistently healthy offensive line and McDaniel the teacher driving the running backs, 2010 has a chance to be the season hoped for last year.
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