This Q&A appeared in the December 7 issue of Gameday Magazine, which is distributed at all Broncos home games.
Late in his second season with the Broncos, Eric Studesville went from running backs coach to the interim head coach for the final four games of the season. Now in his fifth year with the team, Studesville detailed what the head coaching experience was like and how his current group of backs has tweaked the way he approaches coaching.
You played defensive back in college and coached predominantly defense in college. How did you move to the other side of the ball?
"I think it was just an opportunity. They had a space open and I started working with Matt Cavanaugh, who was the offensive coordinator in Chicago at the time. It was just an opportunity to learn more football, more of the other side of the ball. It was a great experience in that sometimes you get caught up thinking you know the most about your side of the ball and then when you get to the other side, you realize you may not have known as much as you thought you did, like why the offense was doing certain things. It was good to be on that side and I just loved it. I kind of gravitated toward it, being on the offensive side, and it's been good."
You've continued to coach running backs since then. Why?
"Well I mean I think it's just that when I moved to offense in Chicago with the Bears in my first year there, I just jumped in and started doing that and that's kind of where I spent most of my time and all of a sudden you look up and you're still there and you're still doing that and working on getting better at that. I've always tried to focus on being really good at where I am and not looking around or wishing I was doing something else. I love where I am and what I'm doing, so I just stayed here. It's good."
You came here in 2010 and within two years in Denver, you were the interim head coach. What was that experience like? Did it happen fast?
"Yes, the experience was fast. That four weeks was a tremendous learning experience for me, but it was humbling that Mr. Bowlen and Joe Ellis, in such a short period of time, had the confidence in me to do that for four weeks."
Did it surprise you that suddenly you were in charge of the football team? How do you react to something like that?
"Incredibly surprised. I didn't really have time to react. There was so much that we had to do right away. Any time there's a transition period like that, there wasn't time to do anything other than to get down to work. We still had four games to play, we had opponents upcoming. I had a tremendous staff. The staff that was here was fantastic. They jumped in and helped and did everything. Everybody pulled their own weight, the players and all the support staff, everybody was fantastic. But we still had four games to play so we had work to do, so there wasn't a lot of down time to just enjoy that particular position other than we had work to do."
Looking back now at that experience, does it change your perspective as a position coach?
"I think every experience you have changes you in some way. It certainly made me appreciate how much head coaches have on their plate. It made me appreciate how valuable assistant coaches are. Really our job is to do our job and really to help the head coach and make sure we're pulling our weight. So all those things I think. It solidified more thoughts in my mind about philosophies and things like that than anything else."
The group you have here this year is very young, very versatile. Has this been a different experience for you without a veteran in the room?
"It has. It has been different, but it's been really good. It's in some ways kind of rejuvenated me and forced me to go back and teach everything from the beginning: the basics and the fundamentals and how I see things and how I think we should do things and not take the little things for granted. The idea that, 'Oh this is a guy, he knows this, he's done this before.' I can't do that right now. But every one of these guys that's in the room has really bought in and come to work and really committed themselves to trying to get better every day when they come out here and it's a credit to the men in that room."
You've gotten contributions from several different backs this year. Is that something you expected and how proud are you of players stepping up?
"You know I think there's really probably two parts to that answer. One is that I'm very proud of all of them because we talk in our room about the opportunity and being prepared when that opportunity comes and then going out and performing. I think everyone that's been put in that position to perform has grasped that opportunity and made the most of it, whether that's Montee, whether that's Ronnie when he came in, and now C.J., and we expect that from anybody else that lines up in there. But that's also kind of the expectation. The expectation is that our preparation is critical to getting ready for the opportunity."
It seems like running backs have to really be jacks-of-all-trades. How do you refine the supplementary parts of their game?
"There's unique things that go into a running back and one of the great things about being a running back, I think in coaching them, is that you're involved in all aspects of the game. You're involved not only in running the ball, but you're involved in pass protection and receiving and running routes, blocking perhaps in the run game. So I just think it takes an overall well-rounded football player to be a really good running back. But whether you're an undrafted free agent or you're a high draft pick, you've got to be able to figure out how to do all things and be a well-rounded guy. And I think that's what I try to coach them to do and that's what I try to push them to do."
See C.J. Anderson's wild 51-yard catch-and-run TD frame by frame from field level in Oakland.