- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- More than a decade ago, Mark Snyder passed up opportunities to join coaching staffs in the Southeastern Conference. While getting the chance to be a coordinator at a high-profile program like Ohio State led to his first head coaching job at Marshall, he sometimes wondered, "What if?"
When the opportunity arose to work with Kevin Sumlin, someone he has known and respected for a long time, and do it in the SEC, Snyder took the chance and became Texas A&M's defensive coordinator. He'll be charged with preparing the unit for the nation's premier conference, while also trying to restore the tradition the Aggies have on that side of the ball as he enters his first season on the A&M staff.
Those topics and more are covered in GigEmNation's Q-and-A with Snyder:
Sam Khan: You played at Marshall and then got into coaching after that. What was the experience like growing as a coach in your first few years?
Mark Snyder: "The hard thing for players to understand getting into coaching, is that you're no longer a player. You can't be a prima donna. You are at the bottom of the totem pole. I had to learn how to make coffee, I had to learn where McDonald's was, I had to learn how to wash cars, and this was back in the day now when we had VCRs and big giant tapes. In my first year we had to splice film and stick it on the board and then splice it back together. I went through one year of that and then the next year, VCRs and VHS tapes came into play and we got rid of the reel-to-reel stuff. My thumbs would be bleeding from the splicer. That was back in the day. I don't feel too bad for myself, because there were many other coaches older than me that had to do it for two or three years. I only had to do it for one."
SK: What made you want to get into coaching?
MS: "Well I wasn't good enough to go pro. It was what I did and being around it my whole life, something I wanted to pursue it and try to make a career out of it."
SK: Growing up in Ohio, what's the football culture like there?
MS: "It's huge. It's a lot like Texas. A lot like Florida. In Pennyslvania, Ohio, that rust belt right there, Friday-night football is huge. Especially the town I was in (Ironton), because I'm from southern Ohio. Two hours south of Columbus, two hours east of Cincinnati, so we were the show down in that corridor of Ohio."
SK: Who have been some of the biggest influences on you in coaching?
MS: "Jim Tressel would have to be one, no doubt about it. Mark Dantonio, I had the chance to work with him. Those would be my main two. They cared about people. Players, coaches. Cared about people. Passionate about what they do and good at what they do."
SK: What drew you to Texas A&M?
MS: "I had an opportunity to work with coach Sumlin at Minnesota. So I knew Kevin. I had a chance to coach against him when I was at Marshall and he was at Houston. So we knew him and (Charlene) and he knows my wife. That was the first draw. I had a couple of opportunities to go to the SEC when I was in the Big Ten and I did not take them. Looking back 12 years later, I might have made a mistake. You know how it is: that thing you never got that you had a chance to get. You always look back and go, 'Wow, what would have happened if I would have taken that?' And the way the SEC is evolving right now, being the powerhouse conference that it is, getting the chance to back into the SEC was very attractive to me."
SK: You are in the middle of a transition to the 4-3 after this team spent time in the 3-4 in recent years. What are the challenges and what do you have to do to you get where you want to be?
MS: "First (the coaches), we're all from different backgrounds. We're all new. So during spring, we were speaking a little Chinese, Spanish, you know what I mean, trying to get the nomenclature down so that we were on the same page first. And then it was a transition of getting the players on the same page and putting another defensive lineman on the field. What do we have to do? We have to recruit to this system. We're shy on numbers up front -- there's no doubt about it -- because of the way we were built and recruited to. We're going to have to recruit to a 4-3 and get some depth up front, especially in this league because that's where it all starts."
SK: When you look at future SEC opponents on video, what stands out to you?
MS: "Obviously in this conference you're going to have to stop the run, or you're not going to get a pass. So we've got to go stop the run and get off the field on third down against some very good offenses in this league."
SK: How would you sum up your experience at Texas A&M so far?
MS: "This place is passionate about Texas A&M. Just very, very passionate. I've been in some SEC venues, I've never been in this venue, but I have coached in some SEC venues and from what I hear and what I've seen on TV, I think this environment will fit right into the SEC, I really do."
1dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf