Penn State Football: Mac McWhorter Talks The Sweet Science Of The Offensive Line
Penn State offensive line coach Mac McWhorter is never short for words. His accent, a mixture of Texas and an unmistakable deep southern drawl makes him a must-listen for anyone within earshot. McWhorter's voice is certainly distinctive in Centre County, but the way he explains the game of football is equally captivating.
From a terminology standpoint McWhorter brings a lot more than just southern slang. "Boss Hog," an award given out each week to the offensive lineman who has the strongest performance has become a rite of passage.
While "Hog" may not be a term for the romantics, McWhorter's wife Rebecca is lovingly referred to as "Mama Hog," and gives the linemen "hog treats" - baked goodies she serves the Friday before every game.
"Mama Hog will always be involved. She loves these kids, and her being up here with me now and having an empty nest, she kind of adopts all them," McWhorter says. "Every week, she makes the special hog treats that I've mandated to give players the night before the game because she bakes magical powers in those that really enhances their play."
So if you come across a man calling people hogs in downtown State College, just remember it's a compliment.
Here are just a few of the highlights from McWhorter's conference call with reporters this week.
What were some of things that made you want to get into coaching years ago? And how important is the emotional, passionate approach?
McWhorter: "I've been in a sports family my entire life. My dad played football, and he was drafted and played professional baseball. I'd always been in a sports family. Football had always been my niche. Everybody thought I would be a baseball player, but I wasn't near athletic enough to do that. Football was something I could play pretty well, so when I finished college I was actually going to go into real estate. My dad was in sporting goods and he had gotten me hooked up with some high school coaches. And one of them asked me to come coach his offensive line. I said, 'no, I'm going into real estate.' But I did it and fell in love with it. The relationship you have with the kids is really special. It is an emotional game. It's a game you can't play without enthusiasm. You can't play without energy and emotion. And that gets contagious. It's really fun to be around every day. I stayed in it, and I got back into it after I retired for the kids. That's a big part of why you coach."
Q: Is there a timetable you put on an offensive line as a coach for a unit to gel together?
McWhorter: "You don't really have a (mindset) that you have to have it done by this date or that date. I can say this, I think offensive lines, probably other positions are the same way, but you are always a work in progress. With the two that left us last year - (Matt) Stankiewitch and (Mike) Farrell - we were a work in progress right through the Wisconsin game, and had we played in a bowl game, we would have continued to be a work in progress. I don't think that you ever totally gel because you are always working to get better. And like I tell my kids each and every day, and I firmly believe this, football players, and in my case offensive linemen, either get better every day or you go down. You never stay the same because everybody around you is getting better or getting worse. Players are kind of like the stock market, going up and down. You've got to really strive to get better all the time."
Q: How would you describe the bond between an offensive line and its coach?
McWhorter: "When you look at it overall, the five offensive linemen make up 45 percent of the offense. If that 45 percent doesn't gel and doesn't play as one, then obviously, the offense is going to have problems. If it's almost half, then the offense isn't hitting on all cylinders. I've never had, in my 39 years of doing this, a really good offensive line that isn't cohesive on and off the field. In recruiting, you try to get as good of football players as you possibly can but at the same time, there is a personality, a character trait that you really look for that gels with the rest of them. ... I think it is special, and I think you do have to have a tight bond between the coach and the players and then within the players themselves."
Q: Can you talk about Miles Dieffenbach and his improvement over the last year? Also, he has a reputation of being a funny guy, do you see that side of him?
McWhorter: "I have never not seen that side of him (laughter). He keeps our room light. He keeps our team light. You have to have a lot of different types of personalities. Miles is funny. He's got a great sense of humor. He is really smart. One-liners come really fast for him. As a football player, he has made tremendous progress from this time last year, mostly in consistency. He played pretty well last year, and you could see growth. Miles is a very conscientious young man, and he works really hard at what he does. When you point out things he needs to improve upon, he certainly works at it. He has made a lot of progress to where he is playing very consistently right now."
Q: What is it about coaching an offensive line that keeps you young and passionate about what you are doing?
McWhorter: "I think this profession keeps you young because you are around the kids all the time, so you are constantly influenced by them. I've been fortunate in my lifetime to stay relatively healthy, and I work at it on a daily basis. I have always taken the approach, and I firmly believe this, that they will somewhat be a reflection of me. Players are somewhat a reflection of their coaches. I want them to have energy. I want them to play with passion. I want them to play with enthusiasm when they hit the field. I certainly can't play for them, but I can certainly give that as a mirror image for them. That's where I am coming from. It's just my personality."