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Published: 8/26/2013 - Updated: 7 months ago

Longevity among Bowling Green assistants helping Falcons make strides

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
BG defensive coordinator Mike Elko is in his fifth season with head coach Dave Clawson. BG defensive coordinator Mike Elko is in his fifth season with head coach Dave Clawson.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

BOWLING GREEN — In college football, continuity in a coaching staff is a rare commodity.

In the Mid-American Conference a successful head coach eventually leaves for a BCS job, and an unsuccessful coach gets shown the door. With assistant coaches it can be an even faster revolving door, with constant movement almost guaranteed.

A rare exception is the Bowling Green State University football staff.

RELATED ARTICLE: B.G. offense key to MAC contention

Falcons head coach Dave Clawson enters his fifth season in that position, making him the second-longest tenured head coach in the MAC. What’s more, BG’s coordinators rank among the most tenured coaches in the league as well.

Defensive coordinator Mike Elko, offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero, and special teams coordinator Adam Scheier have been in those posts for all five seasons Clawson has been the head coach.

If that doesn’t seem like a long time, consider this: The 13 MAC schools have a combined total of six coordinators (out of 39) with at least five years of experience. Three of those six coaches are at Bowling Green.

“It starts with coach Clawson,” Elko said. “We all appreciate what he does for us, and we appreciate the type of life we get to live.

“Coaching is hard, and he understands that — and makes it as good as it can be for us.”

All three assistants agree that some of the factors that have contributed to their longevity have little to do with football.

BG offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero has coached at the college level for 25 years. BG offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero has coached at the college level for 25 years.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

“I’ve been coaching at the college level for 25 years, and I’ve coached at every level with a lot of different people,” Ruggiero said. “As you get older, you realize some times the most important things are working with good people and enjoying coming to work every day.

“And I do that here.”

Scheier agreed, adding, “One of the reasons is that guys came here with a job to do, and we feel we haven’t finished that job. We’re committed to making Bowling Green a MAC champion.

“But Bowling Green also is a great place to coach, and to raise a family.”

With a nine-man staff that has spent a combined 41 years at the school, the Falcons feel that longevity gives them an advantage over schools with less continuity.

“You can’t overstate how valuable that is,” Scheier said. “You have continuity with your terminology and your schemes, but you also have continuity with your players.”

Ruggiero said the continuity helps improve preparation for games.

“When it’s the same people sending the same terminology and same teaching points, the learning by the players is increased,” he said. “When something gets said differently, or incorrectly, or in the wrong order, you’re not as efficient.

“And in our business, that efficiency is priceless.”

Elko said the continuity also helps make practices efficient, too.

“The players know the scheme, know what the expectations in practice are,” Elko said. “Coach Ruggiero and I have developed a relationship where we can organize practice and make things flow.

“And when little things pop up, it’s easy to adjust. We’ve been through so much together, we know how to handle things and improvise better than a new staff would.”

INSIDE THE FALCONS

■ Bowling Green native Aaron Mershman has joined the BG staff as a graduate assistant. Mershman played quarterback for the Bobcats but switched to tight end at Ball State, where he served as a student assistant for the Cardinals last season.

■ An under-appreciated part of Matt Schilz game is his ball fakes. The best example of that came in last season’s win at Ohio, when he faked a hand off to John Pettigrew so well, the safety came up to make the tackle — and left Chris Gallon all alone for a 55-yard touchdown pass.

■ The Falcons starting cornerbacks will stay sharp in practice this season, because they will be forced to compete daily against Gehrig Dieter. The SMU transfer, a Parade All-American in high school, will be an impact addition to the program when he becomes eligible in 2014.



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