GBW: Can you talk about the competition at left guard?
Darrell Funk: “Well Joey (Burzynski) played the right side too. Patrick (Omameh) and Elliot (Mealor) all kind of rotated a little bit with our limited depth in the spring and stuff. They were all pretty even. Obviously Patrick has a bunch of starts. He, I think, would be going on his 30th start. So he is solid there. In my mind they entered fall camp even. I’m looking for someone to step up and take it.”
GBW: Can Chris Bryant move over and play guard?
Darrell Funk: “He can play both. He has played both since he has been here. He’s comeback lighter (and in) better shape. And he has done some nice things. But yeah, we’ve got options.”
GBW: Have you worked him at left since the fall started?
Darrell Funk: “He’s worked there last year and in the spring. It’s not that big of deal to switch over. As of right now he has been playing right guard. Then we will see how he develops.”
GBW: At what point did you realize that Burzynski would be a possible starter at left guard?
Darrell Funk: “A year ago. And Joey is a great kid and a hard worker. And listens to everything he is told to do and does it to a letter. I noticed it last year, but what happened in the spring, based on what I was saying, grades—and just grading guys every day. It came to we just started saying, ‘Hey, gee, Burzynski everyday is grading out higher and higher than any guards. He may not be 6-foot-6, 320-pounds, but he gets the job done. And ultimately that ends up being what it is about—production.”
GBW: How has Ricky Barnum looked playing center?
Darrell Funk: “Ricky, Burzynski and (Jack) Miller can all play that position. Ricky is our guy right now. And he is doing a solid job. He has kind of picked up where he left off in the spring. He is very athletic. All the things we talked about in the spring what he brings to the table. He is doing fine.”
GBW: How many freshman do you think you are going to have in the two-deep?
Darrell Funk: “That remains to be seen. Like I said, we have been a little limited. Their development has been a little limited, ‘cause they are finishing strong in summer school. And so we haven’t had them at times. And freshman, with all the things we throw at them in the first week and plus finishing school, they’re swimming a little bit. So as the dust settles in the next week, will see.”
GBW: You figure you will have to have a few freshman in the two-deep?
Darrell Funk: “Well, considering our low numbers before, they’ve got an opportunity, just like I said in the winter. They’ve got an opportunity to come in and compete. It will be up to how quickly they learn it (and) develop. Again, they are freshman. So we’ve got other options, and if someone emerges from there, that’s a real big positive.”
GBW: How nice is it to have a guy like Taylor Lewan anchoring the offensive line?
Darrell Funk: “He is doing a nice job. It is good. The thing about Taylor, the last year, the year before, you always knew you were going to get a guy that played hard, played tough, had energy, all of that. He is very athletic. But what he is doing now—‘cause he know we talk all the time—he’s got some deficiencies and some things some people wouldn’t see. People like a line coach, who watches every step, would see. And he’s addressing those. His goal is to be a complete player. And he is learning how to be a leader as a junior, which sometimes you would defer to the seniors. But Taylor is doing a nice job, and it is nice to have him over on that side.”
GBW: Is the sky the limit for Lewan?
Darrell Funk: “I think he has a lot of upside. I mean everyone thinks he’s already there. He’s this, he’s that, he’s really a solid player. We point out things all the time. He can do better and he knows it. And that’s the big thing. It doesn’t matter if I tell him that—but when he knows, “Hey I’ve got to get better at this.” And the upside is awesome, ‘cause he can play already. And he can be much, much better and he knows that.”
GBW: How much has he improved since you got here?
Darrell Funk: “I think he has made refinements in his game. Like I said, when you don’t have to tell a guy to play hard, and you don’t have to tell a guy to play tough and consistently prod him that way, then you can coach him more. He has refined his game. He has toned down the issues he had two years ago, without losing the physicalness of the game. Which is huge. And he just gets better at little things all the time. To me he is a lot better. He is making the normal jumps that a player makes from sophomore to junior. Or excuse me, freshman to sophomore, sophomore to junior. That type of deal. He is doing well.”
GBW: What does Burzynski do right, specifically, on the field?
Darrell Funk: “Joey’s got built in leverage. Okay, I kid him about that, but it is true. It is what it is. And that is a good thing. He plays low. He plays tough. He plays hard. He does what I tell him to do. Okay, he is not perfect. He knows that. He is just efficient in what he does. He has gotten a lot better since a year ago. Like I said, he kind of eased onto the scene. He was always a sturdy, trustworthy guy. So now that he was grading out higher than a lot of other guys, we were like ‘Wow, you got to look at him.’ But guys can play and play. And again, you don’t have to be 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 and 320-pounds to play at this level. And if you do something like Molk—he was shorter, but super strong and athletic. Joey has agility, plays with leverage, and he is coachable. Right now it’s his biggest strong suit.”
GBW: What are your thoughts on Elliott Mealer?
Darrell Funk: “Elliott has done a nice job. He came in a little bit lighter. He is moving around. He can play guard. He can play tackle. It just will be—again, usually in these situations someone doesn’t go down to the wire and the night before a game you decide. Someone takes it and they say, ‘Know what, this is going to be my job. I’m going to win it.’ That is usually what happens. Elliott has put himself in a position to do that. Will see how the next week goes.”
GBW: Mealer is a fifth year senior, what has held him back a little bit in his development?
Darrell Funk: “Well, natural development, like all guys. He has had to learn and change. Obviously there have been some things in his life that have affected his, I don’t know, his development. But there has been some things in his life that we all know about that are hard. He has had to push through those. Elliott is a sold kid. He is a great teammate. He’s coachable, he has to—I think is the biggest thing he has to do, like I said, wise up and think to himself that he is going to do it. And have confidence and do it. And see if he can do it.”
To watch the full video interview with Funk, click play below.