As a result of one of the few changes surrounding Rex Ryan's staff this offseason, Bobby April III will take on added responsibilities in 2014 as linebackers coach.
Last season, April's role included developing playbooks and assuring accurate drawings and verbiage on top of working with the Sam linebackers — Calvin Pace, Garrett McIntyre and Jermaine Cunningham. This season, he'll add the Mike and Will 'backers into the mix.
"I'm really excited about getting in the meeting room, controlling the meetings and being able to put my own terminology in," April said. "Also, I'm looking forward to interacting with the players outside of the assistant linebacker coach role. When they come with a question, the answer that I give is the answer that we're going to do. In the past, it was 'Let's go double-check this with BVG.' Now that's out."
"BVG," is Brian VanGorder, last season's LBs coach who has moved on to defensive coordinator of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. April was most impressed with VanGorder's ability to teach concepts and adjustments in the film room. He also learned a great deal about coaching linebackers specifically and defense generally during his first year with BVG and the Green & White.
Of course, it helps to have a talented group of players that are willing to learn. Asked to do a rapid-fire word association, April said "speed" for Demario Davis, "smart" for David Harris, "strong" for Quinton Coples, and "instinctive" for Pace.
But it's not just the linebackers that will make his job easier.
"The main key in the run defense is going to be the front, our defensive line, these guys right next to us," he said, pointing toward the wall on his office adjacent to Karl Dunbar's desk. "When they do well, we react and we do well because they keep the blocks off of us, and then we can run through and make plays."
At 32, April's one of the younger assistant coaches in the league, but don't confuse youth for inexperience. His résumé includes four seasons as special teams coordinator for a pair of Division I FCS schools in Portland State from 2007-09 and Nicholls State in 2010, and three seasons as a defensive quality control coach in the NFL, with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011-12 and the Jets last season.
Plus, as Rex can attest, being the son of a coach never hurts. April's father, Bobby April Jr., is the special teams coordinator of the Oakland Raiders and has been in the same position with various teams throughout the past couple of decades.
"It can be a strange deal when you're working with players like Calvin who are older than you," he said, "but if you can help them get better, no matter your age, no matter what you do, that's what they want. They don't want a guy that's trying to use them as a steppingstone, and I'm sure they see that that's not what I want to do. I genuinely care to get them better, so the age thing may hold me back from getting other jobs, but it won't hold me back from doing a good job here."