Not every assistant football coach wants to be a head coach. Not every position coach wants to be a coordinator.
Matt Limegrover, Penn State’s offensive line coach, has been both. Didn’t care for it.
“I’m a lot better making suggestions than decisions,’’ Limegrover said Thursday, in a conference call with media members.
“I just love the idea of, from the time I get up to the time I put my head on the pillow, to work on having this line play the best it can. I love being an o-line coach, and that hasn’t changed since I’ve been here.”
In 28 years of coaching, Limegrover has been an interim head coach (at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, in 1994) and an OC at four schools, most recently for five seasons (2011-15) at Minnesota, where Penn State travels Saturday to take on the undefeated Golden Gophers.
Limegrover was also assistant head coach at Minnesota under Jerry Kill, until Kill had to step down due to health issues. Tracy Claeys was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach, and fired Limegrover after the ‘15 season.
Limegrover was offered the head coaching job at Southern Illinois in December of that year, turned it down, and became Penn State head coach James Franklin’s O-line guy, replacing Herb Hand, a month later.
Quite a project, he signed on for. It wasn’t as bad as when Franklin got to Penn State, when NCAA sanctions and injuries meant that at one point, only six or seven OLs were available to even practice.
“That was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever been a part of, to be honest with you,’’ Franklin said Tuesday.
Now there are 18 scholarship OLs. The current starting five includes an emerging leader in center Michal Menet, a massive fifth-year senior guard who’s seen everything in Steven Gonzalez, and a superb young talent in redshirt freshman tackle Rasheed Walker.
No. 5 Penn State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten, No. 4 CFP) at No. 13 Minnesota (8-0, 5-0, No. 17), Satur…
A solid mix, in other words.
Penn State isn’t Alabama or Ohio State yet in terms of stockpiling massive, blue-chip OL recruits. But it’s getting there.
“At this point, we have seven guys who, as an entire staff, we feel good about them going out there and helping us win football games,” Limegrover said.
“Not a lot of people are talking about the O-Line,’’ Franklin said. “(The fact that) I don't get a lot of questions about it is a good thing.’’
Limegrover’s bachelor’s degree from Chicago - more known for economics than pass blocking - and master’s from Northwestern suggest he’s got the cerebral part.
For a while after college, he had a little too much of the XXXXL part.
He played in college at about 265 pounds, fattened up on burritos and beer after the season, and returned home to Pittsburgh for the summer, where he worked himself back into shape digging swimming pools.
Then he went into coaching, which does not involve earth-moving. At one point, he was up to 415 pounds and a 61-inch waist.
Eventually getting his weight (he’s now about 260) and health under control made him a better husband, father and coach.
“I’m able to give more (to the players) now,’’ he said in a 2017 interview. “I’m more alert, more present at practice. Definitely more energetic. Overall I just feel more competent.’’
And nothing more, or less, than an offensive line coach.
“At our offensive meetings, I mostly keep my mouth shut,’’ Limegrover said. “All I have to worry about is our five guys blocking the five on the other side. That’s where I want to be.’’