SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Thomas McGaughey, a veteran coach with 10 years of NFL experience, is well prepared to serve as Carolina's special teams coordinator.
And after Bruce DeHaven left that post to resume cancer treatments in Buffalo, McGaughey made it clear he'll do his best to build on the solid foundation DeHaven left behind.
"First thing I'll say, more than anything I'm thankful for the opportunity. But this has nothing to do with me. This is all about Bruce and the foundation that he's laid," McGaughey said. "I've been blessed to be able to work with him for a couple months. I've coached against him for a number of years. He's always had outstanding units, going all the way back to Buffalo. He's always been kind of an idol of mine when you look at special teams coaches around the league.
"The foundation that he's laid is awesome – me and (assistant special teams coach) Chase (Blackburn) are just going to build on it, that's it."
DeHaven's path back to Carolina will not be easy. But McGaughey knows he'll be back to help the team as a senior advisor when the season begins.
"It was kind of a shock, but we knew what we were up against with the whole situation being what it was," McGaughey said. "I have no doubts he'll be back. Bruce is a tough man."
McGaughey said his coaching philosophy is very similar to DeHaven's. They have their own unique styles, but they're both trying to get the same messages across.
"Very similar to Bruce," McGaughey said. "We're really big into fundamentals and techniques. We're going to try to empower the player and give him information he can use on a daily basis, on and off the field."
Like DeHaven, McGaughey believes strongly in directional punting, and he explained why.
"That's all I've ever known," McGaughey said. "To me, that's the only way you can do it. When you punt the ball in a direction, you can take away from the returner one-third of the field – in some cases one-fourth of the field, and that's all you have to cover.
"You give a guy the whole field to work with, you're putting a lot of stress on your punt team. You can't give those guys all that area to work with. You've got to confine them to one spot."
As far as newcomers competing for jobs on special teams, McGaughey wasn't willing to single anyone out, but he did say he sees a lot of potential. The preseason is usually where young special teams contributors are found.
"There's always one where it's like, 'Whoa, where did he come from?' And then the one that you thought was going to be great disappears," McGaughey said. "That's just the way it is. I look forward to coaching some of these young guys. We've got a lot of young talent."
Blackburn, a former Panthers linebacker and special teams ace who joined the staff as an intern this offseason, has moved into a full-time role to assist McGaughey.
It's been just a few short months, but McGaughey can already tell Blackburn has a bright future in coaching.
"I've known Chase for a long time. I coached him for four years in New York," McGaughey said. "I know the man, and I want to help him become the best coach that he can possibly be. Chase was an outstanding student of the game, and I'm not surprised at all that he's going to be a heck of a coach. He's already started down that path."