O’Rourke tackles new marching orders
Assistant coach takes on fifth position group assignment with Mids
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo believes a good assistant should be able to coach any position. Danny O’Rourke is proof positive that can be the case.
O’Rourke is working with his fifth position group since joining the Navy coaching staff in 2003. He is helping Ashley Ingram with the offensive line after spending the past six seasons coaching slotbacks.
“Football is football. It really comes down to teaching guys what to do and how to play with great effort,” O’Rourke said.
Niumatalolo needed to make adjustments to the coaching staff after losing Bryce McDonald, who is leaving Navy to take an administrative position at UCLA under first-year coach Chip Kelly.
Niumatalolo brought back former Navy assistant Joe DuPaix to replace McDonald and it made sense to assign him the slotbacks. That is the position group DuPaix coached during his previous stint in Annapolis from 2008 through 2010.
To fill the void at offensive line, Niumatalolo turned to O’Rourke, who has displayed versatility during his 16-year stint at Navy. Former head coach Paul Johnson originally hired O’Rourke to coach the secondary, which he did from 2003 through 2006.
O’Rourke had coached safeties while working for Johnson at Georgia Southern and oversaw the secondary while at Valdosta State.
O’Rourke spent two seasons tutoring the inside linebackers before switching to the offensive side as wide receivers coach for three years. The Georgia native was outstanding as the slotbacks coach, grooming a steady stream of standout performers and always developing tremendous depth.
“I was comfortable coaching the slots, I loved coaching the slots, had kind of found my rhythm coaching the slots,” O’Rourke said. “That being said, I have the utmost respect for Coach Niumat and his decisions. So when the head coach comes and asks you to move, my reaction is ‘OK, let’s do it.”
O’Rourke spent the first couple of weeks of spring practice acclimating to coaching the offensive line. While Ingram has always taught interior linemen, he is specifically working with the offensive tackles.
“It’s fun to work with the guys up front who make it all go and just see how they live and how they work,” O’Rourke said.
Niumatalolo said the proven ability to coach any position at a high level will ultimately benefit O’Rourke in his career. The 42-year-old certainly has the knowledge to serve as an offensive coordinator in a triple-option system after coaching three different positions on that side of the ball.
“It’s been interesting for me to go through the playbook from a different perspective,” he said. “Hopefully, down the road it will be good for me to have seen the offense from all sides.”
O’Rourke noted the language of the offensive lineman is slightly different from that used with the slotbacks.
“Structurally and fundamentally I know what’s going on,” he said. “A lot of it is the terminology and verbiage we use here, just getting on the same page with Coach Ingram and the players on that.”
O’Rourke has the luxury of working with a pair of veteran offensive tackles during his first spring camp as that position coach. Rising senior Andrew Wood is entering his third season as the starter on the right side while classmate Jake Hawk is a returning starter at left tackle.
Neither Wood nor Hawk was flawless last season. They missed blocking assignments at times or occasionally committed costly penalties.
“Just getting them to be more consistent and to take ownership of the group,” O’Rourke said when asked what he wants out of Hawk and Wood.
This is an important spring with regard to identifying some backup tackles. Ford Higgins, who saw significant action last season as a substitute for both Hawk and Wood, is making the transition to center.
Senior Adam Amosa-Tagovailoa and junior Kendel Wright are listed as the backups and O’Rourke said both have made progress this spring. Wright, who certainly looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, did not see varsity action as a freshman and did not take any meaningful offensive snaps as a sophomore.
“Kendal Wright has done a really good job. Hopefully, this is the year he comes out of his shell,” O’Rourke said.
Amosa-Tagovailoa also has potential that must be realized in 2018 as there is no tomorrow for the 6-foot-2, 268-pounder from Hawaii.
“This is his last go-round so it’s time for Adam to step up and get it done. He just needs to believe that he can do it,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke is coaching the offensive tackles in much the same manner as he did the wide receivers and slotbacks: Teach them what do do and how to play hard.
For their part, the tackles have been receptive to taking instructions from an assistant they have always known as the slotback coach.
“Danny’s not really a slotbacks coach. He’s an offensive line coach at heart,” Ingram said with a wide grin. “Danny is doing a great job. He understands the offense completely and has the perfect temperament for this position. He’s going to be a great addition and we’re fired up to have him.”
Navy assistant coach Danny O'Rourke is working with the Mids’ offensive linemen.