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Phil Rauscher's Booming Voice Also Includes Finer Details for Vikings O-Line

EAGAN, Minn. — Phil Rauscher is, uh, a bit loud during practice.

You can hear him no matter where the Vikings offensive line coach is on the field. Or even if he's on the next field over.

But there's a method to Rauscher's booming and boisterous tone. Yes, you can hear him get on his players if they miss an assignment. Yet he's equally quick to shout praise after a play.

"They've gotta know when they're doing a good job. That's critical. My position is a very non-excitable position," Rauscher said Friday when chatting with the Twin Cities media. "I'm probably the only guy who gets excited when we block the 3-technique in this whole place. People have got to know that they're doing their job, too. Building players' confidence to let them know that they're great or have the potential of being great is just as important as correcting the negative, in my opinion.

"We emphasize both. If you screw up, we're going to let you know. If you do a good job, we're going to let you know, and it takes guys like Brian O'Neill, Garrett Bradbury, Oli (Udoh), those guys need positive reinforcement of what they do," Rauscher added. "They're hardening their bodies and their minds right now during training camp. That's what training camp is for an offensive lineman. You've got to harden your body and your mind, but some of that hardening of your mind is knowing you're doing a good job in what you're doing."

That insightful answer shows Rauscher's willingness to teach, even if he usually does so in a raised tone on the field.

"He's aggressive and tough and gets those guys going, so I like it," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

Off the field, however, he is thoughtful and thorough in his approach.

Rauscher spent time after Friday's session talking to Ezra Cleveland and Dakota Dozier about a play that happened in practice, noting how the guards could tweak their footwork and hand placement to correctly execute the block.

No yelling, just teaching.

"Sometimes you think he's being loud just to make noise, but that's just his energy," Dozier said.

"When we get in the meeting room, he knows his Xs and Os and teaches us so well," Dozier said. "It doesn't matter if it's before walk-through or after practice … if you have a question, he's going to address it and help us get better."

Rauscher did explain earlier why he brings an intense approach.

"I think you guys hear a different guy. I don't know, it's not me," Rauscher said jokingly before turning serious. "When I was learning how to coach offensive line under Bill Callahan, we were loud. We were loud because we have to coach 15 guys. Just because you're correcting one guy, that doesn't mean he's the only guy getting the correction, and I think that guys feed off energy.

"During training camp, it can get to be long days and if you're going every day and you're coaching them and you're the same guy every day, they'll come out and they'll compete for you," Rauscher added. "And that's what I'm looking for – guys that will compete. And that's what we're looking for as an organization. Guys that will compete every day and match our energy. They've done a great job so far."

Rauscher brought the same approach to the Vikings in 2020 when he was the assistant offensive line coach.

But with Rick Dennison, who spent the past two seasons as the team's offensive line coach and run game coordinator, now working virtually due to COVID-19 protocols agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, Rauscher has become the man in charge. Minnesota also brought in Ben Steele as the assistant offensive line coach.

"It's been exciting. It's an opportunity that I've been working for my whole life, and to get a chance to work with these great guys, it's been a whirlwind, but it's been fun," Rauscher said. "I've been preparing for it, I've had great teachers and coaches in [Dennison] and Callahan and Gary Kubiak, and it's just been living the dream.

"It wasn't a huge jump or anything in that sense, so when they called me and told what was going to happen, I was excited," Rauscher later added. "And then it gave us a chance to bring on Ben Steele and come on and take over what my role was last year, and he's done an excellent job in two weeks, getting involved with the players, and he has a great feel for what we do just because he's been in this system."

Vikings offensive linemen said this week they have welcomed the transition of late.

"Since Phil has stepped in, he's ran it from Day 1. No hesitation," Dozier said. "He has been the [offensive] line coach, not a new line coach. The communication has been good. He's passionate and is coaching us hard.

"Phil gives you energy, regardless of how much energy you have. If you're a little bit tired, he can give you that little bit of extra energy to help you push through," Dozier said. "It doesn't matter if it's an 80-yard run or a sack, he's going to be fired up and coaching hard. The energy he brings never stops, and I love it."

Oli Udoh added: "Phil's awesome … [he's a] character. But honestly, I feel what he's taught me fundamentally, especially on the transition from tackle to guard, has helped me a lot these first couple practices. A little loud sometimes, but the message is clear usually that he just wants everyone to get better. You can definitely appreciate that."

And with almost four weeks to go until Week 1, Rauscher's main priority is finding the five starters along the offensive line, plus the backups that will be on the roster.

Rashod Hill (left tackle), Cleveland (right guard), Bradbury (center) and O'Neill (right tackle) would be starters today. (Rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw has been hampered by injuries thus far in camp).

Udoh and Dozier have split reps at right guard, a battle that will likely continue into the preseason.

"Right now, it's probably more of a challenge for finding the correct backups, the swing guys on game day," Zimmer said of what lies ahead for Rauscher. "I feel pretty good with Rashod there. Darrisaw, if you can't practice you can't play.

"And I like Cleveland and Bradbury, and I like Udoh at guard. A big-bodied guy," Zimmer added. "If he's going to be the guard, we have to keep giving him reps so he gets comfortable with all things that happen in there."

As usual, the spotlight will be on the Vikings offensive line over the next five months. In recent seasons, Minnesota has made the playoffs when that unit has performed well.

Rauscher (and his loud voice) will accept that challenge.

"I think their skillset and the way they work together as a unit is what's going to get us through," Rauscher said. "Offensive linemen don't have individual goals. We have group goals. So we're strong as a unit; we're not strong as any particular player.

"If one guy is bad at pass protection, then we're all bad at pass protection. So that's the truth," Rasucher added. "We make sure that our goals are together. Are we excited about how some individual players are playing? We absolutely are, because that makes the unit better."