With just about a month and a half left before the start of the College Football season, we had the opportunity to talk to the WR Coach for the Villanova Wildcats, Brian Flinn. Coach Flinn played Tight End for Mount Union College, where he won the Division III National Championship in 1993 and 1996. Coach Flinn has now been at Villanova for 6 years where he works with the WRs and handles recruiting for Western Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio.
To follow him on Twitter, click here: @Coach_Flinn
Here is the conversation we had with him:
How does it feel to be back at Villanova for your sixth year under Andy Talley?
Coach Talley built this program with good people. It's a fun situation when you come to work every day and enjoy the players and coaches you spend so much time with. I was fortunate (through the recommendation of Brendan Daly) to be hired as a GA by Coach Talley in 2000 and then hired back as the WRs coach in 2005. I really have grown up as a coach here. Villanova is a special place for me and my family – my kids have Westbrook throwback jerseys, my wife and the Crockers tailgate before every game, I never miss a Villanova Basketball game. I have had some opportunities to leave – Brad Stevens from Butler once said “there is some pretty green grass out there” – but I realize how fortunate I am to be here and how green our grass is.
With Matt Szczur graduating, who do you think will replace him in the slot?
In our 3 wide receiver sets, Mikey Reynolds will be our slot and Dorian Wells will be our Z. In 4 wide personnel, both will be in the slot. Mikey and Dorian have both done an outstanding job in the slot for us. This will be Mikey's fourth year getting significant snaps and Dorian's third. When Szczur was hurt vs. Penn last year Mikey and Dorian make 2 huge plays on the go-ahead drive in the 4th quarter. Three weeks later we had our best passing game of the season up at Maine – with both of those guys making huge plays in the run and pass game. Despite what we lose at that position, we also have two guys returning we have the utmost confidence in.
Do you see any similarities between Brandyn Harvey and Norman White?
There are a bunch of similarities between Brandyn and Norman. Both are outside receivers with great ball skills. Both were good high school basketball players who needed to gain weight and strength when they got here. Both are coachable guys who don't make excuses or defend mistakes. Norman had the benefit of having Brandyn around his first two seasons. Brandyn was a great practice player and competitor. He practiced at a tempo in every day that was a challenge for our younger guys to meet.
One of our concerns going in 2010 would make the Red Zone and 3rd down plays Brandyn made for us. Brandyn showed up for us in so many critical situations - against Temple in the 2nd half, @ Richmond, time and time again in the Playoffs - we knew that would be tough to replace.
Norman stepped up and made those critical plays for us last season. Almost identical to Brandyn the year before, Norm came up big in when he was called upon – 4th quarter vs. Penn, Temple, scoring in 7 straight regular season games, on the road in the playoffs.
He does a great job of making all the plays that come to him – rather than running around outside the system trying to make something happen. Norm made such a big jump from his sophomore to junior seasons because he is committed to mastering the position. He has worked hard on the technical aspects of playing wide receiver this off-season - in the film room and on the field. We are excited to see him continue to develop over his final season.
I know you’re the WR Coach, but what can we expect from Dustin Thomas? Is he ready to start?
I just read a great article in SI about Carlos Ruiz. He basically says that anything that goes wrong with the pitching staff is on him – the mistakes all belong to the catcher. That is the same way we look at QBs from the WR position, especially young QBs. Incomplete passes are on us. We don’t show our QB up if something goes wrong – we communicate with him, stay positive with one another and get things right.
When Chris Whitney stepped in for Antown in 2007 as a true freshman we knew as a WR group would have to elevate our play and make the game easier for him. Our job is when the QB hits the top of his drop to be in the exact location on the field prescribed by the pattern. If we do that throughout the course of a game, the QB sees the picture he’s supposed to and we slow the game down.
Dustin is going to do a great job for us. I watch a lot of Big Ten Network this time of year (I’m from the Midwest!) and the guy he reminds me a lot of is Dan Persa from Northwestern. He can run, he makes all the throws and he’s a tough kid. Dustin lacks game experience – which is the most valuable thing for a QB. With our schedule you are going to get thrown in some deep waters early – Temple, Penn, the CAA – and we’ve got to come through for him as he gains that experience.
Has the possible transition into Big East Football affected recruiting at all this season?
Villanova is a great place to recruit to. We have a combination that is unique in all of college football. We have a top tier school academically located in a great city. We play in a great league in a great sports town. Our head football coach built the program from day one up to a National Championship caliber program…and he’s going to be here all four years you play at Villanova. We’ve played on national TV 5 times (ESPN – 4 Versus – 1) in the past 2 years. So while all of the talk about the future is exciting, the current state of Villanova football is what makes people want to be a part of our program. It’s a great time to be a Wildcat.
How important is it to face a FBS school (Temple) at the start of the season in the Mayors Cup?
The Mayors Cup is a great game in a first class venue against a tough opponent. Even though we are different in scheme, Temple has the same goals as we do – run the ball, stop the run, be the tougher team. After opening with Temple the past 2 season, we know what an outstanding team we face to start the season. Philadelphia is a football town and the Mayor’s Cup is perfect for it – a tough man’s game, a war of attrition that comes down to the final play.
With some of the key starters gone, what can the fans expect from a new look Wildcat team?
Coach Talley said it best – we lost most of the guys who helped us win a lot of games the past four years. Particularly on offense, where we lose the toughest QB in the country and the left side of the offensive line who started 53 straight games. However, there are also a number of guys back (particularly at DL and WR) who have been through the CAA and understand just how difficult this league is. We have a group of good young players who are going to have to continue to develop during the course of the season. How much these young guys develop – and how much our veteran players help that process along – will determine our success in 2011.
Who is the best Villanova player you’ve coached?
It would be hard for someone to top what Szczur did in 2009 – All-American, MVP of the league on Offense, Special Teams and MVP of the Championship Game. But there are so many players who helped build the culture of being a Villanova WR even before I was here – Siani, Finneran, Sango, Brian White.
I’ve coached guys who may not stand out statistically but who made a huge difference on and off the field – Anton Ridley and Jonathan Hughes come to mind. I really can’t say enough about what Brandyn Harvey did for this current group – not just with his excellent play but with his competitive greatness day in and day out. Reynolds, Wells and White in the current group have been consummate pros – at practice, in the weight room, in the meetings. It is hard to single out one guy because I’ve been lucky to work with such a special group.