Updated: Dec 19, 2020
On this episode of Real Talk with QBV, We had the opportunity to chat with the Offensive Coordinator for the Yale Bulldogs Kevin Cahill! Coach Cahill led a highly respected offensive attack that helped win the 2017 Ivy League Championship.
Before being the Offensive Coordinator at Yale he was the special team's coordinator and WRs coach and before Yale, he spent time at the University of Maine coaching Special teams and WRs.
Coach Cahill discusses his success as an Offensive Coordinator, what an Ivy league student-athlete can expect during the season and preseason, and talks about his experiences as a coach over the years.
What were your thoughts when the season got canceled?
"Yeah I think it's hard no matter what you're doing, but we were realistic about the whole thing. When the spring season was canceled, you know your losing all the spring sports currently playing. The basketball team they are losing their tournaments. When the NCAA tournament is not played you know something is up. When in relativity your like this stinks but I cant wait for our season to get going, then like everyone else this thing kept going on and on and on and it became more of a reality in July and the beginning of August. This probably is not going to happen, There's nothing you can do about it, and it is the hardest part, its uncontrollable."
"We talk a lot about that as a team, control what we can control and that's kind of how we had to deal with it. Were we happy about it? No, we were not happy about and we struggled with it a little bit. But as a team leaning on each other and move forward, that's the only thing we can do. You know, get prepared for whenever we are allowed to kick off again, we got to be better. Our guys do a really good job with zoom meetings, Communicating with each other, motivating each other, and also pushing each other in different ways."
"It's a matter of growth and we have grown a lot as a team here in this pandemic. We have guys all over the country and even in Europe, so it's hard to schedule meetings with the different time zones. I never thought I would have to do this but our guys really bonded over it."
How have you and your team adjusted during these times?
"I think every team is doing it a little different, the Ivey league is very player safety first and you really appreciate that you really do. It frustrates you sometimes but you really appreciate that this is the true student-athlete experience. So they have guidelines that we have to follow and certain phases we can do things as long as we're moving ahead of the phases. We can do a little more, but a lot of our guys took the semester off. They wanted to maintain their eligibility for next year. So a lot of our seniors are coming back."
"Everyone's situation is different and we have to respect each situation and how they are going to handle it. It's been good for us, we been on the practice field a little for the guys that are enrolled. Sometimes we can use a ball sometimes we cant. The main focus is getting bigger, faster, stronger, and understanding the playbook. So, it's been good for us to be on the field and the guys who are not enrolled, it's just a matter of staying in touch and develop your relationship with player to player and player to coach."
"Relationships are really important to Yale. At first, I thought zoom was the coolest thing ever, now after 1000 zoom calls I really can't stand zoom anymore but it's been good to do what we have to now with the situation were in."
With some extra time on your hands due to the season being postponed have you added any new plays or schemes?
"This has been cool for me to press pause on everything and start to study all the things that I have wanted to study over the years. As a QB coach, breaking down the mechanics of the QB and how's it progressed over the years, Why is Patrick Mahomes, Patrick Mahomes, why is Tom Brady still playing? I really got a chance to study their art as a player. So for me, you really don't have time when you are always going so fast. So to slow down, take a deep breath, look at what they are doing, what makes these teams great, what are they doing differently than us that would work in our system."
"Then just to have growth professionally, if you"re sitting here not doing anything you won't last very long. I think our staff does a great job pushing each other to grow in different ways. But just watching games, I have never watched this much NFL ever, because usually on Sunday your beat, you have been going all day and have to prepare for the next game. So I really think that's the number one thing is growing professionally and seeing what other teams are doing, what makes them great."
Describe the importance of Grades for your student-athletes?
Especially here, It's 1A and 1B when you get to college, Its academics and athletics. Coaches want you for 40 hours a week and teacher want you for 40 hours a week and your running out of hours quickly. So it's interesting, our kids do a great job and I give coach Reno, our head coach the most credit for handling it with what our schedule is. He doesn't tell a kid what his major can be, if he wants to be an engineering major then great, you want to be a doctor then be a doctor."
"We know there's going to be some sacrifice there, and it's going to be both ways, coaches and athletes. When we have practice or meetings it's been amazing to watch both sides work together. As a program it's understanding the balance of academics and athletics, that's why kids are coming here. We want kids who love football but also understand that it's a 40-year plan, not just the 4-year plan. We have kids who want to go to the NFL but after that what are you going to do?"
Describe what it was like for you and the team last season?
"It was special, at the beginning of the year we were struggling, we struggled out of the gate and we were trying to find ourselves. I know offensively we really struggled early, we had a few pieces of the puzzle missing, Whether if it was not healthy or practice wise, We just were not on the same page. I say about we were 3-0 went up to Dartmouth and didn't play well and they gave it to us. That was humbling, then we went down to Richmond and had one of the best comebacks in our history. That really started us to get going, to score two touchdowns in two minutes to win the game, then recover an onside kick to win the game by one. The first time we took the lead was with seven seconds left in the game."
"I think to our kids that sparked them, then after that we really got rolling and we went on a little run. We went down to Princeton and that was the best team football we have played between offense, defense, and special teams. We had another comeback in a big game at home. It was good for us. we were in a bad situation, we were down two scores with four minutes and Ninety yards to go. Our kids didn't panic, that was probably the most fun I have had as a coach. To sit back and be like we either are going to do it or not and we prefer to do this so let's go."
"Our kids responded and it just speaks to the value of relationships and trusting each other, just the belief ultimately why it ended in our favor. that's a storybook game in its self with the protests and lack of lights, it is pitch black and you're trying to throw and catch. But it was a great way for the seniors to go out."
Talk about the importance of culture?
"As far as a student-athlete, the academic portion of things, is you have to be driven academically. If you just are going by, just getting through, you will get eaten up. Now they have such a good academic structure at Jefferson port to help any student succeed all the way through. The way the university is set up, there's a dean and there is a head of a college, in your residential college, it's all like your community. The dean acts like a Guidance counselor and is there 24/7. So if you need help, they are there to support you. You have a head of the college to support you too. There are these families that live together in these residential colleges."
"Part of the thing with Yale, that's interesting is they don't live together. They live with the regular students, we tell kids all the time, your Probably not going to have a teammate as a roommate, you will hopefully have someone from your region, and you're lucky if you have one that speaks English. We have kids from all over the world and that is what makes Yale different and you have to adjust and grow that way."
"It's interesting the tightest group we have is our team, we are very tight, we all have one thing in common. We have 110 guys, when you come in as a freshman you cant tell the difference between freshman and seniors. That's apart of our culture, and our head coach has pushed this on our team."
What do you expect from recruits? Any suggestion on how they can better themselves as a recruit?
"You have to put your best self forward, don't just go through the motion with academics, academics matter. Not everyone is going to the Ivy League, we say that every year, it's hard to go to the Ivy League. You have to be driven academically but I will say this there is a school for everyone and there's a place to play for everyone. If you are serious about playing college football there is a home for you. There's enough Division 1 programs, Division 2 and Division 3 even down in the NAI I know that's not big in the northeast but there's a place for somebody, wherever you want to go, you will find a home to play college football."
"It's just about how much you love the game, in Highschool it's about playing with your buddies and friends, and it's fun but that's not college football. It means something more when you get to this level, it's really about how much you truly love the game, how much you are willing to sacrifice for a team. You go from being the man in Highschool to being just another guy on a college team. How much are you willing to do to become the man again. That's the thing guys have to wrap their heads around, I have done even more to play on a college team. I always compare it to going from JV to varsity that was a big step for players and this is just like that. You are going back to JV and that's scary for a lot of players."
"You have to fall back on your athletic ability and then take that next step forward. You have to work, people don't understand how much work these athletes put into their craft. There's going to be early mornings practice at 530 in the morning or practice at 9 at night. You have to balance what you do, you still have to go to class and do your work. You still have to be a student. When you get to the college level it's your own sport. That's a little different than in high school, with college it's an all-year commitment."
What do you suggest for guys going into their freshmen year of college?
"Come in with an aggressive mindset obviously like you want to go and prove yourself and show everything you have but also be humble. You don’t know everything, to be honest with you, you don’t know anything. If you go in with that mindset hey I’m here I’m trying to give everything I got for this team and do whatever I can and just learn, learn, learn, and ask questions, you will be accepted by your team."
"This is a lot better than you coming in thinking you know all the answers because you don’t know anything, you go to a new team you speak a completely different language as far as Xs and Os. So ask questions make sure you are accountable, be early be on time, all those little things they matter to coaches. When you come in as a freshman, ask the upperclassmen what you should be doing where you need to be. Those guys were in your shoes 1,2,3 years prior they should be willing to help you if not you’re probably in the wrong program. So yeah you got to come in humble and be willing to work."
Have you had a particular team you coach that was your favorite and if so what made them stand out?
"At every place I have been you have a different relationship with each program each team. I have had a lot of good times with a lot of good players, they are all special even the tough seasons you know you don’t have the mountains without the valleys and in these tough seasons you learn a lot from the kids, things about yourself what is good to do what is bad to do. The team that we just had here was a special group, the Quarterback was a four-year starter me and him had a very close relationship it was awesome and we have two guys behind him and I’m excited for their growth as well."
"You know you go back years I was close with a lot of guys, just watching kids develop and grow it makes it special that is why you get into this. If you are into this for the money you aren’t going to last long you get in it because you love the game and because you want to help people and kids grow and understand as coaches, we have value. One specific team though, no I am not doing it."
Do you have a favorite passing concept that you like to call or one that you liked as a player?
"Yeah, I will talk as a coach, simple four verticals, run it different ways but just taking a shot if its man coverage know where you want to go, if its zone coverage know where you want to go. I think that has been something we really developed and you know running four verticals to us we should be able to run it against anything and know where the ball needs to go. So it goes back to less is more, run that play and be great against everything and be really good at understanding that play then you shouldn’t need too many other plays. So four verticals have really taken off for us being able to read it differently, same formations we read it four different ways and it is just a matter where we want the read to be."
"Playing wise it was a wheel route I was a triple-option quarterback played at Springfield. So it was just a play-action, chuck it up, the guy was probably 15 yards wide open because everyone came up to make the tackle so it was an easy play."
Do you have a particular formation you like to run four verticals out of?
"It depends on the situation I would say, either 2 by 2 or 3 by 1, how good is your tight end, where is your speed, what position are you trying to exploit, all those different things you have to answer. It is different week to week for us, what formation are we in, who is covering the tight end, how good is the linebacker at carrying the receiver, do they change personnel. We have to have these answered during the week, maybe it's 2 by 2 maybe it's 3 by 1 maybe it's empty but for the most part it's about what our advantage will be and how do we exploit that."
Do you give the outside receivers an option to do like a comeback?
"Yeah, they will fully call fall out if the corner is over their head. We are reading defenders all the time it is probably a little bit different but I always talk to the Highschool kids you have to run with your eyes up because you have to understand what the coverage is doing, but yeah we will read the corners and if they are deep we are falling out if its man we are going that type of philosophy."
If you have a tight Quarterback race, what is one thing that separates one of the guys in that battle?
"That is a great question. Yeah, we have had a lot of Quarterback battles over the years as I mentioned we had a 4-year starter you know that was an interesting time. When he was a freshman it was who was ready to go and we had a couple of upperclassmen that we thought were going to take the reins but weren’t quite ready yet. So, we put the young freshmen in he played well early then he had a bad interception so we knew this kid is going to be good but he wasn’t quite ready yet."
"We invested in a couple of other kids but the freshman kept developing and we said you know what let us just go with it and it worked out for us. We had kids behind him that were equal to him they drove him, he knew if he went down he might not be the guy anymore because the competition was so good. What am I looking for as far as a Quarterback?"
"Who is moving the chains, who is putting the ball in the end zone, it can all look pretty I don’t care what it looks like I want the ball moving. We need first downs, we need points and whoever is doing that on a consistent basis don’t mess with it. However it is going, I don’t care if it's running the ball throwing it the bottom line is we have to score points as an offense and first downs and touchdowns are how that happens. So, whoever is moving the chains consistently and doing it the right way go with that guy because that guy is going to score points and scoring points is fun."
What are some things you look for in a Quarterback when you are recruiting them?
"Obviously the talent, we need the arm strength, we need the mobility, i'll be honest with you a lot of the time I spend watching the Quarterbacks film with him. I want him telling me what he was doing, I want to see how much of the game he knows, how much he understands not drilling him, but just like hey what play was that what were you reading on that, and if he can describe it he is pretty tuned in. If he struggles with it then maybe he's a very good athlete but needs to develop more."
"So, it’s a fine line in understanding the kid and ultimately what you need what Quarterback fits best for your program. If you have an established program you know what Quarterback you need, maybe it's not the 5 star if he doesn’t fit in your program you're going to have to say no. It is hard saying no to that guy but quarterbacks are the ones driving the car you got to make sure you have the right person driving the car."
What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?
"Relationship with the players. I value that a lot it is important to me to have a relationship with the kids and I feel strong making a relationship with any demographic it doesn’t matter. The kid loves football, the kid wants to get better, whatever he wants to do we are going to have fun and we are going to grow that way from my time down south, to my time at Maine, to my time at Yale its been fun."
"That’s what comes back to me when you mention 20 years its relationships with the players. I can tell you about a lot of the guys I coached but I don’t remember half the scores, thrillers we won, heartbreakers we lost. Those stick out but it's consistently the players, I always try to look them up to see where they are now in life and it's awesome to just connect with them again and see how much they have grown over the years. Yeah, your coaching career keeps going but you can forget that 18 years old you coached 20 years ago is 38 now a dad of three and he's a professional, and it's awesome to see those things."
Outside of football do you have any hobbies?
"Yeah, right now I'm running around youth sports with my kids which is one of the blessings with this fall. I have watched a lot of fall baseball, I have helped coach my son's football teams, watched my daughter play soccer and that’s all the stuff I wouldn’t be doing if we were having a season. I like to run that is where I get a lot of my thinking done I get up early and go on a run. With the kids, I don’t play as much golf as I would like to but I guess my hobby is being a dad."