Training camp is a time for team building, for learning the nuances of your team's strategic system and for fine-tuning individual games. While the focus is on the development of players, training camp is also pivotal for the coaching staff, particularly when bringing in new personnel.
For the University at Buffalo, the offensive staff has a significant new look with three new coaches.
Alex Wood (offensive coordinator and wide receivers), Don Patterson (quarterbacks) and Matt Simon (running backs) are beginning their first season with the Bulls.
The trio brings years of coaching experience to the table and has helped Jeff Quinn step away from needing to manage the day-to-day aspects of coaching the offense so he can concentrate on his job as the program's head coach.
"They have great minds when it comes to the game of football," Quinn said of his new assistant coaches. "Their teaching ability is tremendous. They've had a wealth of experience. They're guys I can lean on. They've been in my shoes. They've been champions. They've helped a lot of young men develop and they're very knowledgeable in the game of football. That's what I was looking for."
Their resumes are impressive.
Wood has more than 30 years of experience at the Division I level, including four years as the head coach at James Madison, and NFL experience with the Cincinnati Bengals (wide receiver coach), Minnesota Vikings (quarterback coach) and Arizona Cardinals (offensive coordinator). Last year, he was the wide receivers coach at Miami (Ohio), helping the RedHawks claim the Mid-American Conference championship after winning just one game the previous season.
Patterson spent 20 years with famed Iowa head coach Hayden Fry and spent 10 seasons as the head coach of Western Illinois of the Football Championship Subdivision, compiling a 62-45 overall record before illness forced him to step away from coaching for a year.
Simon has spent 11 years coaching running backs in the NFL and has 18 years of experience at the collegiate level, including three seasons as the head coach of the University of North Texas.
All that experience in one place combines for some strong opinions, but Quinn welcomes the feedback and has created an atmosphere of respect.
"You spend an awful lot of time together as coaches preparing, talking about personnel, watching film and discussing opinions," Quinn said. And sometimes those conversations can turn heated, but they're always with great respect. They understand the chain of command and they're consummate professionals.
"You know, we've never coached a game together, but I can certainly tell you that we feed off each other's energy. We feed off each other's thoughts. That's what you love as a head coach. Everybody is contributing and has a say in it and adds value every day to what we're trying to accomplish here."
Wood was attracted to the job at Buffalo because of Quinn's intensity and sincerity. And in taking the job, Wood understood he would need to learn and teach the system already in place in Buffalo -- a task he not only embraces but which his coaching background fully supports.
"I think it's a smart move. Don't change your system for one coach," Wood said. "You're changing 45 guys potentially to learn a whole new system. Why do that? I agree with the philosophy that if you want to come coach here, you learn our system, coach it and teach it. Because the fundamentals are all the same. It's still about running, catching, blocking, as far as offense is concerned, and having some expertise about the game as a player and a coach."