John Crist: I know you're now the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, but you were the quarterbacks coach at Central Michigan for three years before that and an assistant with the Bears for three years before that. When you first arrived at CMU, Dan LeFevour was coming off a successful freshman season. What was your initial impression of him?
Mike Bajakian: Right off the bat, you could tell he was a real motivated, driven player. He had a lot of raw skill, obviously a very good athlete, and one of the first issues we addressed was his footwork and drop technique and try to establish some rhythm and things like that. But you could tell right off the bat that, from an intangible standpoint, he had that "it" factor and very intelligent and really a sponge. A very grounded individual that was always looking to improve. No matter how much success he had, whether it was as a freshman, sophomore, etc., whatever year it was, his head never got big and he was always looking to get better.
JC: For whatever reason, LeFevour's rushing yards more than doubled from his freshman year to his sophomore year. Did that have anything to do with your arrival? Were there more designed quarterback runs being called, or was he simply free to tuck it and take off more often?
MB: I think a little bit of the new offensive scheme [was] that we wanted to accentuate that skill set. For him, it became an integral part of our offense. Obviously, he put up some pretty good passing numbers also. It wasn't necessarily that we were not able to throw the ball so we felt we had to run, but we just felt like he brought such a good ability with the ball in his hands that we wanted to make defenses defend that aspect of the offense. When you can use the quarterback as a ball carrier and make them defend another player, another gap, that poses a lot of problems for defensive coordinators.
JC: Because he spent his college career working out of the shotgun in the spread formation, how much of an adjustment will there be in terms of not only taking three-, five- and seven-step drops, but even little things as elementary as taking the snap from center?
MB: There's always an adjustment, and I don't know if it's necessarily an adjustment because of coming from a spread offense or if it's an adjustment to the speed of the game at the NFL level. I think there's some slight differences when it comes to getting your momentum under control and being balanced in the pocket and things like that. But overall, I don't think the transition will be too hard for him. It will take a little getting used to, but with some work, he should have no problem adjusting.
JC: In your offense, how often was he getting to his second and third read before making his decision to throw the ball, and how often was the play call something to the effect of, "The tailback is running a wheel route up the right sideline, and you're throwing him the ball regardless"?
MB: Quite a bit, he got to the second and third read. We utilized a progression reading system, and we were always hammering knowledge of progressions and knowledge of defensive scheme. And a lot of times scouts would come in and ask me what I as his quarterback coach thought Danny's strengths where, and one of them, I think, is his ability to process information quickly, his vision of the field and his ability to get from one receiver to the next based on what he sees and based on the rhythm of his footwork. A lot of the pass game that we executed, that was in our scheme, actually came from my experience with the Bears. Prior to going to CMU, I was with the Bears for three years. So there were a lot of similar concepts that we utilized in our scheme. We had quite an extensive drop-back pass game, from the shotgun obviously, but still the thought process and the progressions were very much the same as you would see in any pro-style offense.
JC: I go to the Scouting Combine every year, and I was stunned to learn that LeFevour decided not to do any of the passing drills in Indianapolis. His excuse was something to the effect of him choosing to wait until his Pro Day, when he could work on his home field with receivers he already knew. You've been a part of the scouting process before. Is it possible that decision had something to do with him slipping so far in the draft?
MB: I don't know. I can't guess at what some of the pro personnel people were thinking. I know the decision he made was based on familiarity with receivers. It was coming, I believe, from the advice of his agent. And whether it was a bad decision or a good decision, I can't guess to be honest. But I do know that Danny is extremely competitive. I know he was coming off of a pretty successful experience at the Senior Bowl, and I think he left those practice opportunities feeling like he showed he could compete with the best in the country, with Tim Tebow and those other guys, and I know a lot of people felt he had as good a showing or a better showing than anybody at the Senior Bowl. I can't guess at how much that hurt his draft status or not, but I know that his experience at the Senior Bowl was a positive one and I believe he felt like he had showed that he'll compete in that kind of arena. But he just wanted to throw with receivers that he had timing with and things like that."
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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