Mike Summers believes in unity and continuity as he teaches offensive line techniques to his players. First and foremost is the bond that the guys need to share with each other and the coach. Being on the same page at the snap of the ball, allows the group to act as a unit and perform the play as it is supposed to be performed.
For Summers and his opportunity here at Florida, he is wiping the slate clean for the guys on the squad. He wants to earn about them as he goes and figure out where the best fit for each is. In doing so, he hopes to build that relationship with each and every guy on the squad.
"My message hasn't changed very much over the years,” Summers told the group of media members gathered to hear him and the other new Florida assistants talk on Monday. “We're not going to progress very far unless we develop a relationship with each other. The thing about that is you can stand in front of a bunch of people and you can ask them to trust you, and that's a whole lot easier to say than it is to have it accomplished. A trust relationship is going to be developed over time with how consistently I am able to interact with them and how they come to understand my approach to coaching the offensive line. The great thing for them is that they all get to start at zero and build that reputation that they have from day one.”
Summers, like any college assistant, is big on fundamentals. For him, his guys are going to get better when they can show their technique in their sleep.
“We are going to be a tough offensive line that is technically sound, so the first thing we have to do is work on our fundamental foundation as an offensive line,” he said. “So much of our success is dependent on our footwork, our landmarks, our hands and our eyes. But when you put your hand in the dirt, those aren't the things you're thinking about. You're thinking about the guy across from you and executing the play. So, those things, those technical developments have to be committed to muscle memory. It has to be trained so when we snap the football, those guys can execute with speed, power and with the kind of emotion that we need in our offense."
Maybe different from most offensive line coaches we hear from, Summers seems to like to coach players at a single position and not try and move the talent around to get ‘the best five guys’ as we often hear. This goes back to the muscle memory remark and not having to train a single player for too many positions.
"There are specific skill sets for each position -- tackle, guard and center,” he said. “I think that the repetition of the fundamentals is so important to their success, so the more times you take reps at a certain position the more comfortable you get with that. I've been in offenses where we flipped the offensive line with the strength of the formation, so the left tackle would play left and right based on the strength of the formation. I've been in years where we haven't had very much depth, and tackles have had to play guard, and centers have had to play tackle and we've had to mix and match. But certainly I think our development happens faster if we can find the best position for each guy and we can develop them in that position.”
There is an exception and that is the center position. You have to have a quality center and you need to have two or three ready to go at all times because of injury or mishap.
“One of the things I learned in the time I was with the Falcons is that we have to continue to train guys that can snap the football because of the skill set that it takes to be able do that,” Summers said. “So we'll train several guys to be able do that even if that's not their major position. And then the rest of that is going to be based off of the depth that we have. And we'll just evaluate where everybody is and try to get them in the right spots."
Summers just came from USC and had to coach up a new center, much like he will have to do here at Florida after the graduation of senior Jonotthan Harrison.
"I walked into a situation last year where they had had a senior center and he had graduated and kind of left a spot there, and we were able to move the right guy in there and he ended up developing into an All-Pac-12 first-team center,” he said. “So I've been down that road before, and we'll find the best guy that can go in there. And certainly that's a critical position. That's a guy that has to basically be the leader of that group. He has to make a lot of the line-of-scrimmage calls and get us on the right page and do a lot of great things. That's a critical position for us."
Starting fresh with this current group is something he insists on doing, not going back and beating the dead horse over what went wrong last season up front. He likes those horses that he does have, now he just needs to get them all on the same wave length.
“The thing I'll tell you is that football at this level, offensive linemen at this level are all big, and being big and being able to move is not what makes you a good offensive line,” Summers said. “You have to be able to put your body in the right position to execute that job that you've been asked to do. All of that goes back to fundamental development, goes into believing what you're told and understanding what you've been told and it goes into your knowledge of defensive football. So we're going to start down the road to teaching those things. How quickly we develop will be determined how well they accept the information that they've been given and how good a job I'm able to do. But certainly there's a time element to learning that stuff, and it's going to take some time for us to do that. I'm encouraged to get to spring ball and start to get those things accomplished."