One conversation with Bob Babich is all it takes to see why he coveted the Chargers linebackers coach position.
Joining the Bolts after spending the past three seasons as the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator, he sees a young roster rife with talent that can be difference makers in the NFL.
Most importantly, he sees a unit that boasts playmakers.
“First of all, not everybody in the NFL can be classified as playmakers,” he said. “To have guys here that have that ability to make plays is something we can build on. My background is as a linebackers coach, and to see the young players in place here, it is an excellent situation. These guys are young and will continue to only get better, so I’m excited about the opportunity to help these guys grow. I’m looking forward to helping them reach their potential.”
With 33 years of coaching experience under his belt, Babich firmly believes that the linebacker position can be a key to an entire defense. As such, he demands a lot out of his players and is determined to maximize their ability.
“The first thing we want to do is make sure we put our guys in a position to play fast. Through our meetings, preparation, assignments, techniques and fundamentals, we want to allow them to play fast. We want the attitude that when we play fast, good things can happen for us. What we want to do as a unit is more than just make tackles. We want to make big plays, so we will do everything we can to help the team be successful. We will do everything in our power whether in the meeting room, practice field or on game day.”
Part of the reason Babich is so bullish on the Bolts’ young linebackers is because of his firsthand experience with many of them. In fact, he spent a week up close and personal with Jerry Attaochu and Denzel Perryman as their coach at the Senior Bowl the past two seasons.
“I had an opportunity then to see what type of players they are. With Jerry, his attitude, energy and effort were just outstanding. And with Denzel, he ended up with an injury and didn’t play in the game, but we had him at practice and knew right then that he was a football player. You could see he was a guy who was very instinctive and had playmaking ability.”
Melvin Ingram and Manti Te’o are two additional linebackers that Babich is awfully familiar with as he vetted them leading up to their respective drafts.
“I was at Melvin Ingram’s workout at the University of South Carolina, and I was able to see his athleticism and ability to move. You could see the playmaking ability that he had. And I remember evaluating Manti obviously, and I knew he was going to be a very, very good football player. He had a big pick against Jacksonville last year, and I was able to see that.”
Meanwhile, even though Babich doesn’t have a previous relationship with Kyle Emanuel, they share a deep bond as well due to their ties with North Dakota State. Emanuel starred for the Bison before the Bolts selected him in the fifth round last year while Babich spent five seasons as the school’s head coach from 1997-02.
“My son also played there, and they’ve met each other and talked in the past. I know when evaluating the film that Kyle is a disciplined, hardworking, fundamentally sound good football player. That’s kind of been the tradition up there at North Dakota State. They have the attitude that they will just get it done. It’ll be fun to be around him. He comes from a good program, so I know he will have a good mindset.”
Although Babich doesn’t have a preexisting relationship with Emanuel, he does have one with another former North Dakota State linebacker who spent time with the Bolts in 2015.
“I recruited Joe Mays,” he said. “I recruited him all the way up to signing day (just after I left), and he had committed to North Dakota State before I left.”
Finally, Babich’s ties to the team extend beyond just the players. He’s known Defensive Coordinator John Pagano for over 20 years, and relishes the chance to coach alongside him and the rest of the staff this season.
“I’ve known Pagano for a long time. I coached with his brother Chuck in 1992 and 1993 at East Carolina University. So I’ve known John a long time, and we’ve talked a lot of ball throughout the years at the Combine, the Senior Bowl or wherever it may be. We were familiar with each other, so obviously that helped with this process. But also with Jacksonville, we’d played the Chargers the last three years I was there, so I have an awful amount of respect for the organization and coaching staff. To get the opportunity I have, I’m just as excited as can be.”