The Bears’ big bet on G James Daniels is also a bet on their offensive line guru
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Having coached college kids at Tennessee and Notre Dame all decade before returning to the Bears as offensive line coach, Harry Hiestand knows the importance of explaining why.
Center/guard James Daniels, the first of the Bears’ two second-round picks last month, can appreciate it.
‘‘When we were doing drills and individual [work], he actually takes the time to talk about each individual drill and why you hold your hands this certain way or why your feet are this way,’’ Daniels said during rookie minicamp Saturday at Halas Hall. ‘‘I really appreciate how detailed he was in every single drill we did. . . .
‘‘It just makes things easier. If a coach tells you to do a drill and he doesn’t explain what’s the point of doing the drill, you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ So when he explains every single point in the drill and how it translates over to the field, I think that’s really helpful.’’
It’s easy for people of a certain age to roll their eyes, but the fact remains: At the college level and now the pros, players want to know the rationale behind their actions. Coaches no longer can give the stock parenting answer: ‘‘Because I said so.’’
‘‘I’m not sure if that’s a generational thing, but it just makes sense,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘If you’re just taught to do something, just do it, you’re like, ‘Why am I doing that?’
‘‘Like, why do you stop at stoplights? Just simple stuff like that. I mean, if you go through the stoplight, you’re going to get killed.’’
There are few people who can explain the whats and why-fors of the NFL better than Hiestand, who was coach Matt Nagy’s first hire in January.
When the Bears drafted Daniels No. 39 overall out of Iowa, they bet big on him — but also on Hiestand, who served as their offensive line coach in 2005-09. At 20, Daniels is the youngest player on the Bears’ roster. Iowa produces many offensive linemen, and the Bears are intrigued to see what happens when they combine that pedigree with Hiestand’s expertise.
Daniels won’t turn 21 until September, making him younger than Hiestand’s prized pupil, guard Quenton Nelson, was in his last season at Notre Dame. Irish tackle Mike McGlinchey, who was drafted No. 9 overall by the 49ers, played his final college season at 23.
‘‘To have a guy like coach Hiestand, who deals with these guys on an every-day basis in college . . . they’re kids,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And we’re turning these guys into men. It’s definitely a benefit to have Harry here. He understands it. It will be really neat to see how that relationship grows over time.’’
The Bears are making it easier on Daniels, who played mostly center in college, by beginning his career at left guard. He doesn’t have to make calls or snap the ball, which allows him to focus simply on blocking the man in front of him.
At 6-4, Daniels carries 310 pounds easily. The Bears haven’t asked him to gain weight yet, but they might. Nagy said Daniels only will get stronger with age.
Nagy described Daniels as a finesse player at Iowa, but he didn’t mean it pejoratively.
‘‘You like to have that nasty in the O-line guys,’’ he said. ‘‘And he’s got it.’’
Ask Daniels about the biggest change between college and his first week at Halas Hall, and he says: ‘‘After I’m done, I don’t have to go to class.’’
So he has ample time to learn Hiestand’s terminology.
‘‘It’s the exact same [blocking] combination [as at Iowa], but it’s called something else,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘It’s just hard to translate those words over and things like that.’’