Mobile, Ala — The Detroit Lions still have a handful of coaching vacancies on the staff after wrapping up a week of practice at the Senior Bowl. The team has yet to name assistants who will be in charge of linebackers, defensive backs and tight ends, with three coaches from last year's staff temporarily filling those roles during the week.
Quality-control coaches Ben Johnson and Stephen Thomas worked with the tight ends and inside linebackers, while defensive assistant Steve Gregory led the defensive backs. All in their 30s, the week offered a prime opportunity for the young coaches to get some developmental work in a unique environment.
The outside linebackers were led by a more experienced hand, with director of football research David Corrao drawing the assignment.
One of the more vocal and animated assistants throughout the week, he reveled in the opportunity to work with his group of prospects.
"I love coaching football," Corrao said. "I'll do it anywhere, at anytime, under any circumstance. This is a fantastic group of college kids coming in, probably working on some things that are a little foreign, trying to learn how we coach the game. We're asking them to do things that, it's different football, right? The game of college football and the game of pro football is different. This was a great group of guys to work with.
"I'm very thankful and fortunate that coach Patricia let me do it. I'm always excited any opportunity I get to coach."
Beyond some of the alignment differences, because of the narrower hash marks in the NFL, Corrao embraced the challenge of getting a few college edge players prepared for off-ball roles they might be asked to play at the next level. That group included early-round candidates Zach Baun from Wisconsin and Michigan's Josh Uche.
"What you're really trying to identify, who can take the coaching," Corrao said. "Who can take the pointers, apply it and succeed? That's really, I think the biggest advantage of coaching this game."
As Detroit's director of football research, Corrao has a diverse, behind-the-scenes role, which included hand-on coaching opportunities with the team's outside linebackers and defensive ends throughout last season.
Corrao deferred to Patricia when asked if there was interest in a permanent switch to coaching the linebackers next season, and the head coach wouldn't say whether this trial run could led to a title change.
"I'm just trying to get as many good coaches as I can," Patricia said. "He certainly helps us a lot. ... He's passionate about what he does."
Prior to coming to Detroit in 2018, Corrao worked one year at the University of Mississippi as a player personnel analyst and one year as the defensive coordinator for Northern Michigan. His NFL credentials include an eight-year stint with the Miami Dolphins, where he worked with the team's linebackers from 2010-15.
Both Patricia and Corrao first worked together as graduate assistants at Syracuse from 2001-03.