Saturday, August 14, 1999
make Bows special
The retired 21-year NFL assistantBy Paul Arnett
is here on vacation, but he's spent
days watching his friends -- June Jones
and Dennis McKnight -- at practice
Pay no attention to that gray-haired gentleman sitting on the water cooler. He's just out catching a few afternoon rays.
Never mind his brow furrowing when the deep snap doesn't hit the punter's hands at chest level in 0.8 seconds. Don't give his grimace a second thought when the place-kicker doesn't have the football aloft in 1.3 seconds.
That guy's just here in Hawaii for five days to play a little golf, not give his former player - Rainbows special teams coach Dennis McKnight - a few pointers on punt protection.
"Coach isn't here to help me out," McKnight said of Wayne Sevier, a retired assistant who spent 21 years as a special teams coach in the National Football League. "He's just in town to play some golf and visit with me and Coach (June) Jones."
That may be, but Sevier also has spent the last couple of days at practice surveying Jones' troops. He and the new Hawaii head man have known each other for years, but didn't coach together until last season in San Diego.
Sevier has been with the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons, the San Diego Chargers - three different times - the Washington Redskins and the St. Louis Rams.
He spent two years with McKnight at San Diego in the late 1980s and it was there they formed a lasting bond.
"Dennis was a special player for me," Sevier said. "He knew what it took to get things done as a player, and that translates to these young guys out here.
"I'm not here to coach special teams. I'm here for Dennis and to help him any way I can. He's going to be a great coach who the players believe in. I can already see that in just a couple of days."
McKnight and Sevier spent a few moments together discussing different things at the end of yesterday's practice. McKnight has the difficult task of turning around a phase of the game that has let down the Rainbows in the recent past.
During the middle of yesterday's afternoon workout, McKnight stopped the special teams drills, called the players into a huddle and told them in a calm, but firm voice that their intensity was missing in action.
"What people don't realize is that it's the little things that win ballgames," Sevier said. "Special teams accounts for 28 percent of the plays and 33 percent of the scoring. It's important you have players with the right mental framework.
"I had a deep-snapper at San Diego one time who stayed in after breaking his hand and separating his shoulder. He knew we needed him to win the game. That's the kind of attitude you have to have on special teams."
McKnight understands that all too well. He's not only trying to find two deep snappers, a punter, a place-kicker and several return men for punts and kickoffs, but guys willing to fly down the field with reckless abandon.
He's also developing his own coaching style, something still in the early stages. If something goes wrong, he explains it patiently. If something goes right, you can hear his voice carry across Cooke Field like a beer vendor behind home plate.
"Nice job, Eric," he yelled out to junior kicker Eric Hannum after he connected for a 60-yard punt. "Great athletic move," he boomed to junior college transfer Shawndel Tucker after he downed a Chad Shrout pooch kick on the 1-yard line.
"Wayne has given me a lot on a personal level. He was a difference-maker for me in my life," McKnight said. "But as far as helping me out, maybe not as much because the NFL is pretty vanilla.
"They don't come after a lot of people on punt protection. They don't ever fake much because everybody is afraid to lose their job. The things that we'll try to do, they won't do at the next level."
McKnight has spent the past couple of afternoon practices working on protecting the punter and rushing the punter. His top three candidates are Shrout, Hannum and Washington State transfer Jake Huggins.
He also spent a great deal of time yesterday working on kickoff returns and covering those kicks. His return men right now are Dee Miller, Daniel Ho-Ching, Dwight Carter, Justin Colbert, Clifton Herbert, Nate Jackson and Quincy LeJay.
"We're trying a lot of different players on punts and kickoffs," Jones said. "We want to find some guys who can get up in the crease and make big plays for us.
"Having Wayne here has been good for Dennis because he knows special teams so well. He's spent a number of years working with some great teams (including the Super Bowl champion Redskins in 1991). It's great to have him out here."