Coach Interviews

Coach’s Corner: Mike Chavez on Zeth Ramsay


After the NFL Draft concludes, when teams start racing to sign undrafted free agents, is when team scouts earn their money. This is a chance for teams to uncover diamonds in the rough on team-friendly deals, which is the goal of every general manager.

The Chargers believe they uncovered one such gem in Zeth Ramsay, a three-year starter at Colorado Mesa. Despite facing a lower level of competition, San Diego scouts believe Ramsay (6’6”, 280 lbs.) will succeed on Sundays.

I spoke with Colorado Mesa associate head coach Mike Chavez to learn more about what the Chargers have in his talented but largely unknown player.

“The thing with lower-level offensive linemen is, if they have size they have to have feet,” Chavez explained. “What Zeth has is he has feet … and they move really well.

“The thing that really sets him apart and what most NFL teams are looking for is the pass blocking. His feet move really well to the point where he can he can set in different ways according to the defensive end and keep him at the line of scrimmage, for the most part. It also helps he has a long arm reach and big hands.”

Ramsay played right tackle for the Mavericks, where his impressive combination of size, power and strength allowed him to dominate the competition. The Chargers plan to keep him at tackle, at least initially, but there is a chance he could wind up moving inside.

Fortunately, Chavez has a history of preparing players for such changes.

“Dan Connolly, who played center and guard for the Patriots, played tackle for me, too. Dan was probably 6’3” or 6’4”. Zeth, looking at what the Chargers have up front, could be a tackle or a guard. Depending on how his feet work now, they might move him inside.”

Connolly is not the only NFL player Chavez has mentored. Back when he was coaching at Riverside City College, Chavez coached Randy Nonhoff (Jets) and Mike Rockwood (Bills). Later, while coaching at Southeast Missouri State, he coached Connolly and Eugene Amono (Titans).

It was around Ramsay’s junior year that Chavez realized he may be working with his latest NFL prospect.

“Really, it is the junior year where you can start setting people apart, and it was the same for the other [NFL players] I’ve coached,” Chavez explained. “That’s especially true at the lower levels. At the Div-I level and sometimes even the I-AA level it is a little easier to tell. At the Div-II level, probably by their junior year you can get a grasp on it. I always thought, just because of the way [Ramsay] worked out and the way his feet looked, he would at least get a look.”

It turns out, Ramsay got a lot of looks. A slew of teams showed up to check him out prior to the draft, including the Chargers, Patriots, Raiders, Seahawks, Cardinals, Panthers, Texans, Jaguars, Jets and Giants.

Although Chavez did not try to direct Ramsay to one specific team, he did steer him to a particular conference.

“I thought he was more of an AFC guy, where the teams are more pass-oriented,” Chavez said. “That made more sense than the 49ers or the Giants, point-of-attack teams that just like to pound on people. He’s never going to be that type of kid.”

Chavez will have to continue getting stronger and filling out his frame before he is ready to challenge for playing time in the NFL.

As for the mental obstacles? Those should be conquered in short order.

“[Ramsay] is one of those cats who can never watch enough film, never go over enough plays and all the technique things,” Chavez said. “As far as the studying aspect of it, he was a sponge. He was one of those guys who would soak everything in and just keep asking until he felt like he had covered every base and was ready to try it out.”

The biggest adjustment for Ramsay (and for most rookies, for that matter) will be getting used to the increased speed of the NFL game.

“At any level, [offensive line] is the hardest position to develop, and I don’t care what they say about quarterbacks,” Chavez said. “There is a big difference between the Div-I and the NFL guys. The defenses are quicker and the defensive ends have more moves. He just has to get used to the speed of the game.”

So, I finished my chat with Chavez by asking him the $1 million question: Based on what he saw from Ramsay at Colorado Mesa, does his star pupil have what it takes to make the leap to the League?

“I don’t think he’ll make the Opening Day roster, but I’d like to think [the Chargers will] keep him on the practice squad,” he said candidly. “The [NFL] guys I’ve coached before — and they were in the league 5-10 years each — started as practice-squad guys. Connolly was a practice squad guy for a long time and then he ended up being a captain and starting and winning a Super Bowl.

“Zeth may have to take the long road to get where he wants to, but it’s going to be well worth it.”

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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