April 8, 2003
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles acquainting you with Wyoming's new football coaching staff, and their positions.)
Mike Breske knows about winning football games.
He should, he has been doing it with Wyoming Head Coach Joe Glenn for the past 16 seasons.
While winning has been a Glenn trademark, The Cowboys' new defensive coordinator and secondary coach says there is a great deal more to Glenn than just winning football games.
"There's no question I've learned a lot about x's and o's from him (Glenn)," Breske said between spring practice sessions on Tuesday. "But I've learned so much more from him. especially when it comes to interacting with people. I've learned so much about how to treat the kids. Joe's interaction with people is very special. He is terrific at it. Being around him rubs off."
Through those many seasons, Breske, a father of three, and a 1981 graduate of South Dakota State, has had plenty of opportunity to leave Glenn, and coach elsewhere. He has never really been interested in doing that. "I know what I have coaching with Joe," he said. "I'm spoiled. I have really enjoyed coaching with him. I know his expectations of me as a coach and as a person. I certainly have appreciated his keeping me all these years."
The two have had a great ride together through the years. They've won many championships--including three national titles--and plenty of games. They have done it by adhering to a very positive philosophy. "When recruiting we certainly look at an individual's ability. But we have many tests that we use. Those tests include character and academics. Joe is big on character."
It's obvious that respect feelings are mutual between Glenn and Breske. "Mike has been a huge part of the success we've enjoyed through our years together," Glenn said. "Our success has been a direct result of the style ofdefense we have played. I believe Mike is one of the top defensive minds that I've seen in the college game. He has class and professionalism, and he brings it to work everyday."
When it comes to the businss of playing football, Breske's experience and his track record is without peer. While his philophy of defensive fooball has remained constant. "We've always believed you place a player in a positive situation. We're not interested in setting a kid up to have failure. We're all about putting round pegs in round holes. We want to take advantage of their assets."
Sometimes that means moving players to different positions. For example, the coaching staff moved a pair of safeties to the weakside linebacker position. Both Guy Tuell (Yuma, Colo.) and Tom Vincent (Riverton) are experienced veterans whom the coaching staff believe will help shore up the linebacking positions. "We can take better advantage of what they bring to the field by moving them. Those are probably not going to be the last position moves we'll make."
With Breske, the Cowboys will be a multiple defense. There will be a zone-man mixture in the secondary, all the while adjusting to fit the personnel. "I guess my philosophy of defense has never really changed. That's the college game. It's like a wheel, there may not be much new, just variations on existing concepts, and they just keep coming around."
Breske's first job was at Yankton (SD) College. He then moved on to Wayne State (Neb.), and finally caught up with Glenn at the University of Northern Colorado. "I guess I've done it all through my career, but lately I've been in the secondary," Breske said. "I remember one spring training at Wayne State, there was just two of us coaching. I ended up coaching all of the defensive positions. It was tough, but it helped prepare me.
"A coordinator delegates. You believe in the guys you are coaching with, so you let them coach their positions. I enjoy it because I'm involved in all aspects of the defense. But I really enjoy coaching the secondary. The secondary positions are very difficult to play. You have to react back there. They always say, for instance, that cornerbacks are on an island, and that's true. In nine out of 10 plays, you are not a factor. But you must always be ready because that one time more than likely will result in a huge play for your side or their's. While the defensive line controls the tempo of a game, the secondary reacts.
"In the secondary you simply must be able to get there. You do that with strength and speed. When you get there, you must be able to finish the play. As I looked at tape of the Cowboys a year ago, one of the things that stood out was the finish. Often times we got there, and we were in position to make a play, but we did not finish. We will work very hard on that. Tackling is all about two things, wanting to, and having the technique to do it properly. You must want to tackle, if you don't, you won't be effective. But if you have that desire, then we can teach the techniques for you to get it done effectively."
Breske has been very pleased with the attitude of his defense thus far. "These guys are all athletes, and as athletes they are competitive. But what we found is they were down mentally. They were ready for a change. We get after them, but we are positive with them. Believe me each and every one of them is a sponge. They are soaking up everything. They need some success. Once you have success, then you get greedy. You want more, and that's where we want to be with them.
"Initially, our main concern is the development of depth, at all of our positions. By the end of spring we want to have a solid two deep. That may take us a little longer than the spring. We may have to carry that over into fall practice. But I think there are enough players to develop a solid two deep."
Glenn's philosophy asks that the offense protects the defense, according to Breske. "It's certainly a team thing, both sides of the ball working together," Breske said. "Joe doesn't want the offense putting the defense in bad situations. Certainly the best defense is the one standing on the sideline cheering for the offense.
"Our defense has to learn to be effective on what we call the 'money downs'. On the third and medium and third and long situations, we have to find a way to get off the field, to get the ball for the offense. It looked on tape like the Cowboys had a very difficult time with that over the last couple of years. The offense can be a little up and down, a little hot and cold. The defense can't afford that. The defense has to be 'three-and-out, three-and-out. If we can do that, then obviously we are successful."
Breske is very optimistic about his defense to this point of spring training. Obviously the Cowboys must stay healthy, that's vital. They also must continue to take steps forward, which, according to the defensive coordinator, they have been doing.
"We don't have to be taking leaps at this point, just steps forward each day," Breske said. "The kids must buy into what we are doing, and I think they are. There is good leadership on this team. We have a good core. We must complete spring training with a very positive attitude, then the summer is very important. That's where the chemistry developes as they stay together, and work together this summer. We'll know alot about us when we get back together in August. I think we are all very excited about what we can accomplish.
While some coordinators like to be on the field during the game, Breske spends his time high above in the press box. He will sit right next to offensive coordinator, Billy Cockhill. "Not only can you see everything from up there, but the atmosphere is much more composed for the most part It's easier to make adjustments in that environment. Billy and I sit side by side, and we help each other. It has worked very well for us."
The track record speaks for itself.