By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — What do quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe, Marques Tuiasosopo, Brady Quinn and Chuck Dowdell have in common?
All have been coached by Bill Diedrick, Indiana State’s new offensive coordinator.
The hiring of Diedrick was announced in February and he’s currently in his second week of spring practices with the Trent Miles-coached Sycamores.
“Bill brings great knowledge and experience that’s unbelievable at any level, let alone at this level [NCAA Football Championship Subdivision],” Miles said after Saturday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. “The things that he’s done in his career and the knowledge that he has, you couldn’t find a better person to come in here and help get this going.
“We’re very fortunate [to have Diedrick at Indiana State]. Bill and I have a very, very good working relationship and we’re friends off the field. It was just the right timing. The opportunity arose … and it’s a good fit. It’s great to have him here, because it’s not going to do anything but make our offense better. Our quarterbacks are going to learn faster than they could learn from anybody out there.”
Diedrick, who’s also the ISU quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, said he doesn’t mind that the program has compiled a 1-32 record over the last three seasons.
“It’s not so much the team being 1-32,” he insisted. “I think that my relationship with Trent, him being given the opportunity to have his own program … and I was looking to come back south [from Canada]. It gave me an opportunity to help a friend out and start and develop a program.”
Diedrick, 61, previously coached at the University of Hawaii, two high schools in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth College, Montana State, Idaho, Washington State, the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos, the University of Washington, Stanford, Notre Dame and, most recently, the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts.
Diedrick, who worked with Bledsoe one season at Washington State and Quinn two seasons at Notre Dame, has guided 10 quarterbacks who ended up in the NFL.
“To me, it’s fun to be able to work with great competitors and watch a kid develop and have an opportunity to raise above his skills and play in the NFL,” Diedrick reflected. “You look at the 10 kids that have had that opportunity … it’s a lot of fun because they’re great competitors.
“Of those 10, only three of them ever started as a freshmen. Drew Bledsoe was one, Brady Quinn was another and Marques Tuiasosopo [at Washington] was the other. So everybody wants to come in and play as a freshman, but not very many guys are truly committed in what it takes to do to prepare themselves and to be able to come in and have an opportunity to play, let alone start as a freshman.”
Since the start of Indiana State’s spring practices March 30, Diedrick said he’s noticed “good improvement” from Dowdell, a freshman who started much of the 2007 season.
“He’s starting to get the ball located a lot better,” Diedrick pointed out. “I think his reads have been good. We’re really working on his mechanics — the little things, all the things that are important, the things that he probably hasn’t really had an opportunity to do.
“I mean, he played a little bit of receiver and a little bit of quarterback last year. You know, all of those kids [on ISU’s offense] are totally inexperienced. They’re like babes with diapers. It’s like getting them started from ground zero. But I’m pleased with where Chuck is right now. I know he’s got a lot more growth ahead of him this spring.”
Miles said Diedrick’s influence on Dowdell and the back-up quarterbacks will be positive.
“You’re going to see progress from the position and from each individual, not just in football but as a leader,” Miles emphasized. “He teaches them how to be a leader. He teaches them how to operate the offense and do the things it takes to be the field general.”
Dowdell, for one, appreciates all the instructions he’s received from Diedrick in a relatively short period of time.
“I feel coach Diedrick has helped out everybody from starting quarterback to fourth string,” Dowdell said. “He’s got good enthusiasm.”
Diedrick also has observed progress from the offensive unit as a whole.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve really seen is in effort given,” he mentioned. “I think that there’s been good progress and improvement. We’re not nearly where we would like to be, by any means. But it all starts at ground zero and it really starts with each individual giving great effort on a consistent basis and I think that we’re getting closer to having that. Once a young man and a group can do that, they’ll be able to make plays.”
Diedrick made no statistical predictions for the 2008 season, which opens Aug. 28 at Eastern Michigan, but he did say that ISU will run a multiple offense.
“I think the important thing about that is you really have to design or mold or shape that offense according to the personnel that you have,” he explained. “So that’s really the big thing this spring. We’re kinda throwing a lot at ’em, seeing who can learn and who can’t. What they can’t do is probably as important as what they can do. Then we’ll modify that in the offseason.
“You also have to take a look at all the young kids coming in [this summer] because those guys are probably going to be put in a position where they’re going to be playing quite a bit. So it will be a very multiple offense and it will be shaped into what our skills allow us to do. I think it all starts with the quarterback position.”
ISU will conduct another public scrimmage from about 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The final spring practice will be April 19 when the annual Blue/White Scrimmage takes place.