Home ยป New DL coach Nate Ollie in Indy because of expertise in one area: Teaching the Attack Front. – IndyStar

New DL coach Nate Ollie in Indy because of expertise in one area: Teaching the Attack Front. – IndyStar

by Arifa Rana

INDIANAPOLIS — Nate Ollie looks a little bit like the outlier among all of the new faces on Frank Reich’s Colts coaching staff.
Ollie doesn’t have a long coaching relationship with new Indianapolis defensive coordinator Gus Bradley like linebackers coach Richard Smith or defensive backs coach Ron Milus.
Only 30 years old, he’s not a veteran of decades in coaching like Smith, Milus or senior defensive assistant John Fox. Ollie’s also not a former Colt like assistant linebackers coach Cato June or assistant defensive backs coach Mike Mitchell.
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He’s not a living Indianapolis legend like Reggie Wayne.
Faced with the biggest coaching staff overhaul of his Colts tenure, Reich interviewed six candidates for the defensive coordinator spot, chose Bradley and then spent most of the first month of the offseason interviewing candidates for the other open spots on his staff.
“Gus and I worked very hard at it,” Reich said.
Ollie is here for a reason.
“I was able to come in and teach this attack front,” Ollie said. “That was my connection.”
The moment Ollie decided he was going to become a coach is impossible to forget.
Ollie’s dad had just died. The funeral was on a Friday in Chicago. Ball State was scheduled to leave for its bowl game on Saturday.
Indiana defensive coordinator Chad Wilt was Ollie’s defensive line coach at the time. Wilt went to the funeral, then drove Ollie back from Chicago to Muncie, staying right next to his player’s side the entire time.
“When I was sitting in that car, I was thinking,’ Ollie said. “This is what it’s all about. Coaching, to me, is bigger than the X’s and O’s.”
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The moment sent Ollie down a path that started slowly, then turned into an open highway faster than he could have ever expected. A couple of months as a graduate assistant at Ball State turned into three seasons, mostly as a graduate assistant at Tennessee, then a season as the defensive line coach at Eastern Kentucky.
And then, all of a sudden, he was in the NFL.
The Eagles hired Ollie to be the team’s assistant defensive line coach for two seasons. Then he got hired to the same spot when Jets head coach Robert Saleh started filling out the staff.
“It’s really by the grace of God how all this happened,” Ollie said. “When I got to the Jets, didn’t know Saleh. Even when I got to Philly, I didn’t know anybody, except for coaching (Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett at Tennessee). That’s just how it’s been coming: Just trusting God, putting in my work, my work ethic, guys seeing the way that I work.”
Ollie did not know Gus Bradley, either.
Saleh does.
“It’s well-documented, Gus is like a second father to me,” Saleh said at the owner’s meetings.
A recommendation from Saleh to Bradley led to an interview for Ollie in Indianapolis. Bradley, who has had success with young defensive line coaches in the past — Eric Henderson, a Bradley assistant with the Chargers, is now the defensive line coach and run game coordinator for the Rams — made the first call.
Bradley liked what he heard.
Ollie’s coaching style — relationship-based, rather than fear — fit with Bradley and Reich’s leadership style.
“I’ve got to know what I’m talking about, too,” Ollie said. “I can’t go out there and build these perfect relationships if I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Ollie knows plenty. He might be young, but he had expertise in the right field of study.
The attack front.
Ollie’s first NFL job put him on coaching’s fast track.
“I got introduced to the attack front when I got to Philly,” Ollie said. “That’s when I kind of learned, kind of changed up my whole philosophy of how I’m going to teach the defensive line.”
Working under former Eagles coordinator Jim Schwartz, who interviewed for the Colts job that ultimately went to Bradley, opened Ollie’s eyes.
While Schwartz became famous in Philadelphia for lining up his defensive ends in a Wide-9 approach, setting up way outside the shoulder of the tackle, there were other teams using the alignment. Bradley designed the LEO in Seattle and set him up in a similar alignment to give smaller, more explosive pass rushers a place to play.
But the attack front is more mentality than alignment, more philosophical than technical.
“We’re telling these guys to take their seat belt off, and let’s go,” Ollie said. “We talk about rush, crush, close. We want to stop the run on the way to the quarterback.”
No reading. No reacting.
Indianapolis’ previous defensive scheme ostensibly wanted the defensive line to do the same thing, but in actuality the Colts played some read, and it was often difficult for pure pass rushers to get snaps outside of third-and-long situations.
“They did a little bit more read, but you could watch some clips and you could see the attack on some of those films,” Ollie said. “I’ve got some clips of those guys attacking. Now, it will just be all the time.”
Ollie learned the attack front from Schwartz, but the philosophy has spread around the league, particularly after Saleh’s success with DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa leading an attack front in San Francisco. At one point in his time with the Eagles, Ollie was on a Zoom call about the attack front with Jets defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton, a fact that made sense when Saleh hired both men in New York last season.
Saleh would have liked to be able to keep Ollie.
“Really upset that we lost him,” Saleh said. “Gus has definitely got a heck of a d-line coach.”
For all of his youth, Ollie is taking over the spot on the defensive staff that the Colts need to see improve the most.
The defensive line position has been hard to solve during Reich’s tenure. First, there were two years from Mike Phair, one of the three assistants initially hired by Josh McDaniels in 2018, and then two years from Brian Baker.
Indianapolis had mixed success. Veterans such as Jabaal Sheard, Denico Autry, Justin Houston and DeForest Buckner lived up to their reputations; a bevy of day-two draft picks at the position struggled to develop into difference-makers, although injuries to Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis played a big role.
Ollie’s task is now to help the two most talented pass rushers Chris Ballard has drafted reach their potential. Indianapolis drafted Kwity Paye with the No. 21 pick last year and then followed it up a round later by taking Dayo Odeyingbo in the second round, leaving no doubt after the pick that the Colts considered Odeyingbo a first-round talent before he tore his Achilles tendon in the pre-draft process.
The presence of Buckner, Yannick Ngakoue and Grover Stewart give Indianapolis a trio of established veteran starters so Paye and Odeyingbo don’t have to carry the load.
If Ollie can get those two second-year players to take the next step, the Colts defensive line could be scary.
“It’s exciting being able to coach those guys,” Ollie said. “A lot of guys want to instill fear in somebody. I want to build relationships, to build trust.”
Ollie’s age, to some degree, can help him build those relationships.
And he’s not worried about his ability to command respect, even though he’s only a few years older than the men in his defensive line room.
“No challenge at all,” Ollie said. “When I got to Philly, got in the league, I was like 27 years old, coaching Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham. Those guys, they’re older than me, and I was able to go and teach those guys things.”
The Colts are counting on Ollie to teach the entire defensive line to play the way they’ve wanted them to play for a long, long time.
Attacking on every play.

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