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Cal Football

Coleman Chops the Wood

September 8, 2022

Junior offensive lineman Ben Coleman was kind enough to take a few minutes for a telephone interview Wednesday evening after practice. What follows is a transcript of that interview.

Good evening, Ben, thank you for taking the time. By way of introduction,  I want to let you know that I’m a little different than many of the people covering Cal football in that I am 71, and I’m willing to ask the questions that other people might not.

Sounds good, let’s go.

I’m with Bear Insider, as you know. As you also know, we have message boards, and Cal fans can get a little overcome with angst on those boards. Let’s start with this: What have you seen on the film of the Davis game that should allow your fan base to stop day drinking and look forward to the future of this team?

What we saw in the film room was, obviously, first game things. We ran things they didn’t prepare for, and they did the same. It was like facing a Washington State, it almost seemed like they went play-for-play right out of the Washington State playbook.

Which was no problem. I know we got off to a slow start, but the mistakes we made, we all made them in the right place. There’s a saying that goes, “If we’re all wrong, we’re right”. A lot of times, fans wouldn’t be able to see it, but a play can be run wrong and still hit for 70 yards. The good thing was, we communicated well on all facets, from the quarterbacks to the running backs to the O line. Everybody was in the right place, now it’s just about being able to clean everything up to make the plays run smoother.

What form does that communication take? Obviously, you aren’t talking to each other while the play is running --- or, are you?

It can, at some times. Offensive line, it’s easier. Sometimes you get double-teamed, and you yell “Go, go, go!” to allow the next guy to know. Or, “I’m gone, I’m gone” in the middle of a play call that might be bang-bang. Just certain things that will help communicate where we are going. That can happen during the play.

As far as pre-snap, that goes to the quarterback. It depends on where we are going with the play. On certain plays, we are listening for the center, telling us which way we are sliding.  There can be communication between individuals, from tackle to guard, from tackle to tight end, to let them know what the play is. We may communicate on an individual level, and of course, from the big horses, the quarterback and the center, on a team level.

It looked to me, last Saturday, even though you only put up three points, your best drive of the day was the 2-minute drill where you had less than one minute, actually, to move about half the field. How did that (drive) feel, and how was it communicated?

2 minutes is a drill we work on a LOT. 2-minute and 4-minute, we plan to be able to use both of those a lot. We want to use the 2-minute drill at the end of the half, and of course, we always want to be in a situation to use a 4-minute drill at the end of the game, which means we are closing it out.

Everyone knows it is coming. There’s a lot of games with 2-minute situations, not a lot of rushes. I think, me personally, that’s where I’m most comfortable – running the game, being one step ahead of the defense. That’s one of those things where I have to communicate – “slant, slant, slant”, just simple things that everybody knows in college football, but you’ve got to be able to communicate it quickly before the defense runs into it.

I think, for the offensive line, the 2-minute drill has been impressive all camp for us, so we were glad all the preparation was able to come to fruition at the end of the first half.

I personally was impressed. I thought, for the first 2-minute drill of the year, with a quarterback you got out of the transfer portal, that you really managed the clock well there, and everyone seemed to really know what their role was on every play.

Definitely. I think that’s the biggest thing. We go over a lot of situations. We watch a lot of film of other teams. Even this week, going back to the Florida State – LSU situation. WE try to learn from those mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. Our goal is to minimize those as much as possible watching other teams make big mistakes to be sure we can prevent those, so we are not in the same situation.

You could probably ask our backup long-snapper a 2-minute situation and he’d be able to tell you what should happen because we have ALL been in team meetings where we have all been locked in and it is a mandatory thing that we go over game clock situations, stuff like that.

What are you looking forward to this week with UNLV? What do you expect to see from their defenders?

I expect to see them try to capitalize on what they think are our weaknesses, the stuff we messed up on last weekend. They may see some things on film and think they smell a little bit of blood. On our end, we want to make sure we are correcting those mistakes so they don’t happen again, and we are doing a great job of that this week. It’s been a hard week of practice, and that’s good. Practice hard and the game comes easy.

We’re going to look forward to putting up more points. We got help from the defense last week, they helped us out with a big six points, that’s an additional benefit. We want to get above the four touchdown mark every week.  That’s always been the goal. We did a good job of minimizing penalties, both pre-snap and during plays. We want to repeat that. Offensive lines, hands clean. Wide receivers, the same. Make sure we are all on the same page there.

We definitely want to put up more points, and that’s going to continue every week no matter who we play. I expect some creative stuff from them. Coach Bruno is close to everybody, and of course, Coach Hayward coached here as well. They will test us for sure, on the blitz and everywhere else.

What are you, personally, excited about at this point in the season?

I think I’m excited about improving. I’m always about constantly improving. I’m my biggest critic. I’m always in the film room. It’s funny, when you called me, I’m actually watching film right now, watching some stuff from earlier today in practice. It’s the first thing I do when I get home – everybody knows it, girlfriend knows it. I’m just trying to be the best I can be. I know I’m at a new position, and the learning thing has to come quick.

If I’m playing at guard, it’s a lot different from playing at tackle, although I am comfortable out there. I have to make the necessary adjustments (to my game). It’s a different ball game. You’re opposite guys that are a lot quicker, a lot faster, but I have the advantage on size. I have to use that advantage, and the sneaky quickness that I pride myself on. I like to use my athleticism.

And, you’re a technician. You have to be technical. There’s a lot of plays, of situations where it’s going to be a big-time drive or a big-time game, whether it’s at home or on the road, where you’re going to get tired. Then, it’s all about who can best manage their technique when they are tired. We are playing big-time football, everyone can do it, but can you do it for four quarters? I look forward to doing that, improving my conditioning and technique as the season goes on. The game conditioning is something you can only see in the game. Practice is fine, but football conditioning with adrenaline rushing is something that will take repetition. I’m excited to improve on that week-in and week-out, starting with this week.

Is the footwork different at guard than at tackle?

I think the footwork is different because I believe at guard you can get away with some things because everything is right in front of you. I think you have to be more of a technician at tackle. I think your footwork can make or break you. At guard, it’s different because everything is so up-close and personal. When I played a little bit of center, everything was right THERE, but as a tackle, you are playing a little more in space. Everybody knows you are on an island. I played left, I have a right-handed quarterback.

I welcome the challenge. Big thing about it, I have a short-term memory. Another thing I pride myself on, whatever moves they might make, I pride myself on preparation and technique. Whatever happens, you improve on it every week.

A big thing I tell the rest of the line is, “we may get beat on a move; it’s college football. But the big thing is, you have to take away that tool from their toolbox. And over the course of the game, eventually those tools run out.” That’s a big thing we emphasize.  Yes, the footwork is definitely a lot different, but the best part is, I welcome the challenge, and I’m constantly improving on my footwork to make that adjustment (to the new position). My goal is to get better and better as the season goes on.

All right, last question and I will let you get back to your film work. What do you want alumni and fans to know about Ben Coleman?

That’s a big question, and I love it. I think the biggest thing about me is “bend, don’t break”. I always use that phrase…

And is that “bend, don’t break”, or “Ben, don’t break”?

(laughs),  “b-e-n-d”. My name is Ben, of course, but it’s bend, don’t break. I’m here to help this team win. I welcome all the criticism that comes with it. I never run from the criticism. I was not happy with my game last Saturday. No matter what, the heat, whatever issues, I don’t look for any excuses. The big thing about me is, I’m always choppin’ wood.  Some people get discouraged; I welcome the criticism. My dad is a big influence – this game, I made eye contact and just shook my head. He knows where I’m coming from. I’m always looking to be a better version of myself. I’m happy we got the win, and last week we did enough to get the win, but I’m not looking for “enough”, I’m always trying to be better.

It's a race to see how fast I can improve while enjoying the process. Bend, don’t break, no matter, physically, weather, whatever. I’m not going to break. I know what fans expect, but more important, I know what my coaches expect, what my family a expects. I know we got written off early.

There was a score prediction on Bleacher Report. We put that on the board in our locker room. Didn’t discuss it with the coaches, just used it for motivation. We’re going to keep it that way.

We are always criticizing ourselves. It’s just going to be me out there. Left side is a big responsibility, they placed me there and it’s a big responsibility. I plan to live up to it.

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Discussion from...

Coleman Chops the Wood

1,815 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by calumnus
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Another nice piece but you again made the mistake of saying that UNLV won 3 games last season. No, they won 2 games. Anyway, you are clearly on upgrade on the sunshine pumping we've had in the past. Both you and Coleman seem level headed. And Coleman is both level headed and confident, which is an encouraging development coming from a Cal offensive lineman.

I'm looking forward to more of your work.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
heartofthebear said:

Another nice piece but you again made the mistake of saying that UNLV won 3 games last season. No, they won 2 games. Anyway, you are clearly on upgrade on the sunshine pumping we've had in the past. Both you and Coleman seem level headed. And Coleman is both level headed and confident, which is an encouraging development coming from a Cal offensive lineman.

I'm looking forward to more of your work.

Agreed. Really informative interview. Love the combination of honesty and confidence from Coleman. I do think "Ben don't break" would be a better mantra.
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