Dave Cohen became Hofstra’s seventh head football coach in the 65-year history of the program on December 13, 2005. Cohen joined the Pride from the University of Delaware where he was the defensive coordinator. He previously served as an assistant coach at Fordham, Lafayette and Albany. As he enters his first season on the Pride sideline, Cohen sat down with Hofstra Director of Athletic Publications Len Skoros to discuss the beginning of his tenure at Hofstra, his coaching philosophy and his thoughts on the 2006 season.
You came on board in December, right in the middle of a heavy recruiting period, and then after that had to get ready for spring practice. So you really have been on the go since arriving. No that you have a little “down time” what are your thoughts of Hofstra and of being a first time head coach?
Dave Cohen: I am extremely excited about being here and my enthusiasm has only grown since arriving on campus. The transition to becoming a head coach has been a learning and growing process.
What attracted you to the Hofstra job?
D.C.: Well, first, the location of the school. Anything a high school recruit is looking for we can show them – great facilities, great academics, small classes, the ability to get into New York City, whether it’s for an internship or to see a show. On top of that the campus is beautiful. The ability to win was also attractive to me. As everyone has witnessed Coach Gardi, Coach Pecora, Coach Danowski, Coach Ryan, Coach Edwards have all had tremendous success with their programs and I want to continue that.
You have obviously been part of a successful program at Delaware, which won the 2003 National Championship and due in large part to its great defense. Is building a top-notch defense one of your priorities at Hofstra?
D.C.: Well, we are hoping to build a great program and part of that includes having a great defense. I believe having an offensive system that runs the football and runs more traditional sets and formations prepares the defense for what they will see during the course of the season. Plus defending the run in practice will also make us a more physical and prepared defense.
What is your philosophy on offense and defense?
D.C.: The offensive philosophy is to put the opposing defense in a bind, the run-pass dilemma. That is, never allowing them to focus in on the run more than the pass and just being balanced. I say all the time to the offense that any offensive coordinator can call a play on second-and-four, and to the defense that any defensive coordinator can call a play on second-and-11. So we want to keep opposing defenses off balance by having the ability to run the football as well as throw it off of run action.
Defensively, it is about out-hustling, being more physical and more emotional than our opponent. Our defense will be simple enough that we will spend more time defending the other team’s offense than learning our own defense. It is a system that will allow the players to play as hard as they possibly can without over analyzing things, or as we say “We won’t have paralysis by analysis.”
What are your thoughts on the 2006 season?
D.C.: We are excited about the season. Of course, seven away games and four home games will be difficult. More difficult will be replacing some of the great players that have just graduated. Marques Colston, Willie Colon, Devale Ellis, Stephen Bowen, Tom McHugh, Dan Garay, Cole Haley, Ed Greene and Brandon Sebald – five of those guys were in NFL mini-camps or on NFL rosters right now. So it will be a young team and we will try to bring them along and get them going in the right direction. We do have some proven standouts returning that I am excited about. On the offensive line captain Jed Prisby and Chris Durkin are guys we can build around. Anton Clarkson is a proven talent at quarterback, while we have two quality running backs in Terry Crenshaw and Kareem Huggins. On the defensive line Shemiah LeGrande is a seasoned tackle. Gian Villante and Chris Sebald are veterans that have played a lot for us at linebacker. David Darby is one of our captains and a fine player at safety. Rob Zarrilli is a standout at place kicker and Chris Hanley returns to handle kickoff and punting duties.
I am also interested to see the development of our young players at the start of preseason camp.
Two games that standout on the schedule are against I-A Marshall and your old team Delaware. What are your thoughts on those games?
D.C.: We were looking for an 11h game when I first got hired and Marshall had an opening. This is a great opportunity to get exposure and a measuring stick for our program. It will be a great environment for the kids to play in with 50,000 people there and a great college football atmosphere.
Playing Delaware will be another game with great atmosphere and a big crowd. I believe it is their homecoming but other than the fact that I coached there, it is just another game. I am more concerned about Hofstra then I am about the opponent we play. But it will still be a great environment and a great day of college football.
Anything else that you would like to say to the Hofstra alumni and the fans of Pride football?
D.C.: One of my biggest goals is unifying Hofstra Football past and present. I know there have been different eras and different coaches, but one of the things we are trying to do is just bring everyone together and have a product that everyone is proud of. We are hoping that between homecoming and different alumni functions we can be one unified group.
The team will be an exciting product to watch with the enthusiasm, hustle and resiliency the players will show and that will be something that all Hofstra alumni can be proud of.
The other thing I’d like to express is that this past semester we had 28 student-athletes earn a 3.0 or better grade point average and, as a staff, we are going to do a good job of graduating the players and making sure they go to class and perform as well in the classroom as they do on the field.