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When players sign their letter of intent in December or February of their senior years, most expect to have the same position coach for several years. Some may know what’s going on surrounding the program they sign with and have an idea that their position coach could change. Others know that coaches can leave for a different job whenever they want, and prepare their minds accordingly.
Few plan to have four different position coaches in their career. Texas senior offensive linemen Elijah Rodriguez is one of several Texas players who has experienced that.
Rodriguez redshirted during his freshman year in 2014, but was under the coaching of the man who recruited him, Joe Wickline. He then had Wickline for one more year before Matt Mattox arrived at Texas to help coach the frontline of Sterlin Gilbert’s offense. A head coaching change brought Derek Warehime into his position room for the 2017 season, and Tom Herman’s acquisition of Herb Hand in the offseason adds another new face for Rodriguez and the rest of the Texas offensive line to learn from.
With how loyal players are to their recruiters and position coaches, this much turnover often could have a negative effect on most players. Rodriguez saw the positves.
“There are difficulties with that, but I will say I’m super grateful that I’ve had that experience of having a lot of different coaches because I’ve learned how to be very coachable, adapt to different coaching styles, (and) learned how to conduct myself with excellence no matter what’s going on around me,” Rodriguez said August 2 at Texas’ pre-season media day. “That kind of goes along with what the coaches tell us all the time: you can only control your attitude and your effort. The fact that we’ve had so many different coaches, I’ve had to live that day to day. I feel like that’s benefitted me and blessed me a lot.”
Rodriguez explained that he was able to pick up something from all of the different coaches he’s worked with during his Texas career. He didn’t go into detail, but noted that each coach had various ways to improve his technique, while also teaching him off the field how to learn to deal with different people.
These last two years, the coaches in the offensive line room have changed, but the system has remained the same. Tim Beck returns as offensive coordinator in Herman’s “pro-spread” style offense. “It does help in the fact that it’s easier to remember the plays,” Rodriguez said on offensive continuity.
Even though the offense remains the same, Rodriguez has one of the more unique roles on the team. In the first few practices he has been running with the first team at right guard, but he has experience playing all five positions on the offensive line during his Texas career.
His ability to play up and down the line is part of Rodriguez simply wanting to be the best teammate.
“Whenever a coach has told me to go to a different position, I’ve gladly gone to that position and learned it, learned it well,” Rodriguez said. “Now, I’ve played all the positions on offensive line as well as a little bit of tight end. I’d say that gives me a much better opportunity to get on the field, but more importantly help the team when the team needs my help.”
After missing the entire 2017 regular season, the coaches’ trust in him was evident when they placed him at left tackle in his first game back from injury at the Texas Bowl. Right now, the position Hand trusts him at is first string right guard.
“Obviously Coach Hand has been doing this for a lot longer than I have,” Rodriguez said. “He has a tremendous understanding of which players will fit best where. If he says that I am the best fit for the right guard position, I agree with him. I’m excited to play right guard and I think I’m going to have a lot of fun.”