A Roof over its head: new coach to bolster defense

Roof takes over as Minnesota's sixth defensive coordinator since the 2000 season.

Trevor Born

Last season the Gophers defense ranked dead last nationally in yards allowed per game among major college football programs.

After just one year, defensive coordinator Everett Withers left the program, and former Duke head coach Ted Roof was hired in his place.

Roof recently sat down with the Daily to talk about life as a coach and how he is going to change the way the Gophers play defense:

After the defense struggled so much last year, what are you looking to do differently?

It really blew my mind when I investigated the Big Ten and found that seven or eight of the teams run some form of the spread offense. When you think of Big Ten football, you think of Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, not the spread offense. But the league has evolved and now you have to defend the entire width of the field, and to do that you need guys who can make plays in space.

It used to be that the starting point of teaching defense was starting with two backs, and now two backs are a rarity in this league.

There’s so many different, complex offenses now that first and foremost I want guys who can play fast and react and use their ability, rather than thinking a whole lot. The brain slows the body down.

How does the recent news of Sam Maresh’s heart problems affect the defense?

First and foremost, thank God we found it. Our heart goes out to the kid and the family. Certainly when the time comes, we’d love to have him back.

I’m not sure about the impact of it. You never know fully until the kid gets to your camp. He would’ve certainly had an opportunity this year, but really it’s all about the main goal of getting himself fixed where he can live a full, healthy and productive life.

You’ve coached quite a few different programs over the past two decades. Does bouncing around like that wear on you?

I think the average stay for a football coach is 3.3 years. I don’t feel like I’ve moved an abnormally high rate for this profession. With as global as everything is today, people growing up in the same neighborhood and living their whole life in one place is more of the exception than the rule.

The tough part about our business is that you have to be away from your family a lot more than you’d like. I came up here in February and we had a house to sell back in North Carolina. Not having my guys with me – I have twin boys that are 9 – was tough, but they moved up a few weeks ago and this has been a good fit for me.

After being a head coach for two years, was it a tough decision to become an assistant again?

I like being a football coach, whether it is a head coach or coordinator or what. I just like the word “coach.” I like to be in that environment; I don’t think it really matters what your title is.

What’s a typical day for you here?

This is one of the slowest parts of the year for us, and a typical day now is getting here about 7 o’clock and going home between 5 and 6.

You have to devote part of your day every day to recruiting, part to visiting and interacting and developing players and part to game planning, where we get the scouting reports and everything.

That may seem like a long day to some people, but that’s one of the shorter days for us. In season, you’re talking about getting here at 6 and going home between 10 and 11. It’s a grind, but at the same time you appreciate the grind, and you appreciate the discipline this game gives you.

What do you do for recruiting on a daily basis?

Well a big thing is that we get thousands and thousands of DVDs from players, and coach Brewster has made it clear that if somebody has taken the time to send us something, we’re certainly under the obligation to look at it. We look at every one that comes in. It’s amazing what you find when you do that, as opposed to just going off the recruiting services and stuff like that.