Q and A: Football Coach Zak Hill
EWU quarterback coach will face-off with alma mater at 'Showdown on the Sound' Saturday at 6 p.m. at Qwest Field in Seattle
by Krystal Deyo, EWU Sports Information
Eastern Washington University quarterback coach Zak Hill knows what makes a great quarterback. It takes one to know one.
Hill was a record-breaking quarterback from 1999-2003 at Central Washington under the coaching of current EWU head coach Beau Baldwin. While coaching at Eastern, Hill assisted EWU standout Matt Nichols to a record-shattering career. Previously, he helped coach Eric Meyer, who won the Walter Payton Award in 2005. He is currently working with junior Bo Levi Mitchell, transfer from Southern Methodist University.
Hill will stand across from his alma mater this Saturday (Sept. 11), as the Eagles take on the Wildcats at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.
Q: While playing for Central Washington you were coached by Beau Baldwin. Now you stand beside him on the sidelines as an assistant coach. How was he as a coach and what is it like working with him as an assistant coach?
A: “I’ve been with him a long time, and that’s one of the nice things. I know his personality and I’ve had a chance to play for him, which was a great experience. He is a very good coach and a very successful coach. At Central, there were a lot of good memories. The transition from player to coach was an interesting one. You think you know it all as a player, and then you get into the coaching world and it’s much different. There is much more detail and a lot more aspects that go into it. It was a nice transition knowing the guy that I’d be working for, and having that relationship made things a lot easier.”
Q: You face CWU this weekend; how does it feel to be playing against your alma mater?
A: “It’s fun. It’s fun that I played for them and I have a lot of great memories, but I’ve been removed from the program for a while and I don’t really know the coaches. That makes it a different game. Having so many former Central coaches here, is also an interesting situation.”
Q: You were a record-breaking quarterback in college then later coached Matt Nichols to a record-breaking season last year. What is it about you and Coach Beau Baldwin that produces such spectacular quarterbacks?
A: “A lot of that is attributed to Beau. He is a great offensive guy - he is great with schemes and he is great with using his personnel. He can pin-point aspects and qualities that we look for in quarterbacks. It does seem like we always have the best guys, as far as the quarterback position goes, in the conference and even in the nation.”
Q: What makes a great quarterback?
A: “One of the big reasons that most of our quarterbacks have had so much success is that they were recruited as freshmen, coming out of high school. A lot of the time teams are bringing in transfer quarterbacks. In Matt’s case, in Eric Meyer’s case, in my case, we were all able to play early as either freshmen or sophomores. Having that much time to get to know your offense and to be able to build a cohesive group has a great deal to do with success. Being able to learn and taking things from the classroom and applying them on the field is a quality we look for. A great quarterback is a leader, a hard worker and someone who puts in extra time, whether that’s more film study or extra foot work or throwing the ball more.”
Q: Getting used to a new quarterback has to take some getting used to. What are some things that you and Bo Levi Mitchell have worked on this season?
A: “Bo is doing great. Since he came last spring it was nice having those extra practices to get used to our terminology and the offense. Bo has a very strong arm and is very knowledgeable. He picked up our offense and terminology very quickly and stepped into that leadership role right away. As far as this year: we’re just working on fundamentals and getting in lots of repetitions.”
Q: What is your favorite thing about coaching?
A: “I really like the coaching staff because it is a fun group of guys. I really enjoy the team - it’s very cohesive. I don’t think that there are a lot of individuals on the team. They are very coachable.”
Q: How do you like the red turf?
A: “I love the red turf. At first it was a very interesting idea and to be honest I didn’t really know how it would look. Now that it’s in and we’re able to practice on it I think it looks sharp and it’s a great surface.”