WILLIAMSBURG — In 30 years of coaching offensive football and a career full of hits and triumphs, Kevin Rogers still appreciates the opportunity to be proven wrong.
Fourteen years ago, William and Mary's new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach was an assistant at Notre Dame in the area to evaluate Bruton High multi-sport athlete Bryan Randall.
Rogers doubted that Randall could be an effective college quarterback, projecting him as a safety or defensive back.
A couple of years later, when Rogers became the quarterback coach at Virginia Tech, he inherited Randall. The two eventually made history, with Randall becoming ACC Player of the Year and conference champ in the Hokies' first year in the league.
"He improved more than any single player I think I've ever coached," Rogers said. "The guy just worked at it and worked at it and worked at it. A guy that I didn't think could be a quarterback — shows you what kind of quarterback evaluator I am — he ends up being ACC Player of the Year. Tremendous fun coaching that kid. Can't say enough about him."
Rogers hopes to duplicate the success that he's experienced at nearly every stop in his career. His return to Williamsburg brings him full circle, as he again works for the man who gave him his first college coaching job, Tribe fixture Jimmye Laycock.
He and Laycock, both William and Mary alums, are sympatico when it comes to offensive football. Rogers said that his philosophy is similar to that of a lot of coordinators: "You want to be able to run the football. You'd like to take advantage of those run plays with some play-action passes, whether they be bootlegs or drop-back play-actions. Obviously, you've got to be good on third down. You've got to be good on the drop-back play at the same time."
He values decision making, and if the quarterback is mobile and makes good decisions, so much the better.
"My experience has been, as far as quarterbacks are concerned, it helps to have an athletic quarterback," he said. "That allows you to play 11-on-11 football, whereas if you just turn around and hand it off, the defense has 11 players and you end up with 10."
Rogers has made an excellent living with mobile quarterbacks: Marvin Graves and Donovan McNabb at Syracuse; Jarious Jackson at Notre Dame; Randall at Virginia Tech. In five years as quarterbacks coach with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, he had the chance to work with future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
"A hard guy not to like," Rogers said.
Rogers cites a handful of influences in his career: Gary Tranquill, for whom he worked at the U.S. Naval Academy; George DeLeone, with whom he worked at Syracuse; Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell with the Vikings, who hired him and taught him elements of the West Coast offense that he's incorporated into his own thinking. And of course, Laycock.
"When you coach for Jimmye as a young coach," Rogers said, "he gave you no choice but to be a good coach. If you had an idea you wanted to bring up, he had no problem with you bringing it up, but you better be able to substantiate your thoughts. You don't open your mouth unless you have something that was valid and researched. He was terrific like that.
"When you coach with him as a young coach, sometimes you don't appreciate it while you're there with him. But later you appreciate what he's done for you."