GT: While it's very tempting to both come up with the questions AND answer them for you, I guess I'll let you speak for yourself... here and there. :)
xatomsmasher: That would be good. I hate typing.

GT: So first off, introduce yourself to the rest of GD. Who are you?
xatomsmasher: Dennis Wesson

GT: Age?
xatomsmasher: I like this question less each year. I’m 46.

GT: Yeah, me too, now that I’m 30. But I suppose that youth is all a state of mind and less so about a calendar ticking off pages. Where are you from, originally, and where do you live now?
xatomsmasher: I grew up in Newton, NC. I’m sure no one has ever heard of Newton because it is a small (about 13,000 people now, about 9000 when I was there) town 40 miles from Charlotte. I have also lived in Chapel Hill, Durham and Cary in NC, Naperville and Batavia in IL, and Amherst in MA. Currently I live in Bogart, GA just outside of Athens.

GT: So it sounds like you moved around quite a bit after college. What has been your favorite part of the country to live in… and why?
xatomsmasher: My favorite part of the country is the research triangle in NC. Although I am sure it has changed a lot since I was there, each town I lived in had a small town feel with the cultural activities of a larger city because of the number of colleges in the area.
I actually enjoyed living in every place except Amherst. The people I encountered in Massachusetts were just too cold and difficult to get to know.

GT: And tell us a bit about your family. Married, single? Kids?
xatomsmasher: I have been married for 11 years and have three kids. I have a 7 year old son and two daughters, one 4 and one 15 months.

GT: So, other than come to my cubicle to "talk shop" on GD topics, what do you do at our place of employment?
xatomsmasher: I take care of all Unix/Linux systems as well as printers and network equipment for the ASIC design group. Mostly I try to keep users from complaining to my boss about the state of the network.

GT: I know there's an interesting story about your path through school and eventually to this job. Would you care to fill the others in?
xatomsmasher: As an undergrad, I attended UNC and obtained a BS in Physics. I had decided in high school I wanted to be an experimental particle physicist. So I then attended Duke University for their program in high energy physics.
It was difficult dealing with Duke (or dook* as UNC fans spell it) fans since this was the beginning of coach K’s tenure at Duke and was actually during the only period in the last half century that Duke had a football team (Spurrier was coach). But I made it though and worked for UMass as a postdoc in experimental particle physics for three years.
When it was time to look for a tenure track position, I sent out my apps and got some interviews. The most promising was an interview at the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) near Waco Texas. They were going to interview 55 people and hire 50. By the time of my interview, they had heard that there were going to be budget cuts, so they had lowered the hire number to 5. By the time I got back to UMass, the SSC had been cut completely from the budget and about 1000 physicists with more experience than me were also looking for jobs. I decided it was time to get out in the real world and actually make money rather than doing another postdoc, so I applied for system administration jobs and was hired as a Unix system administrator.

GT: The hatred runs deep in that UNC-Duke rivalry, indeed. I have to imagine that it pains you – while making Duke fans happy – to have seen UNC’s baseball team falter for the third season in a row after making it so close to a CWS title. More on sports later, though…
xatomsmasher: Duke has fans of sports other than their basketball team?

GT: Hear that, Duke fans? OK, enough about work and school, already. It's giving me a headache. Other than this addictive game, what are your favorite activities to fill your leisure time?
xatomsmasher: I remember leisure time. It was what I had before I got married, bought a house had three kids and stated playing GD. I like to play with my children, read and do Sudoku. There are other things, but they change every few months. I tend to get deeply involved in a hobby until something else catches my interest.

GT: Alright... that's it for the small-talk. We'll get serious for a moment. Much has been made of the various issues affecting our daily lives as citizens of the US. Rising prices of gas and food are squeezing many household budgets. Foreclosure rates are at an all-time high. The War in Iraq continues on (and on and on and on...). Personally, what do you think is the biggest issue that needs our immediate attention and correction?
xatomsmasher: With so many severe problems in this country it’s difficult to pick just one, but to borrow a phrase from the ’92 elections “It’s the economy stupid.” I think that other areas such as the international perception of the US as an imperialistic country that has lost any sense of a moral compass is very disturbing, but the economy is what is foremost in most minds right now because it directly touches the lives of all US citizens.

GT: I have to agree with you on that one. Any thoughts on how to right the ship, economically?
xatomsmasher: I knew I should have taken a course on economics. I think that lack of attention to the middle class in this country over a large part of the last couple of decades has been a big contributing factor to the situation we find ourselves in. The policy of giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people has only created a widening gulf between the wealthy and those who are middle class and below. Those policies need to change.  I also think we need to close the Enron loophole that Phil Graham put in. We need to rein in speculation on oil prices. I think yesterday's stock and oil markets show that we are suffering from the effects of speculation in the oil market. There was a big sell off in the stock market and a lot of the money went into the oil market raising the price of oil by about $5 a barrel. I don't know the relative contributions to the price of oil of speculation, a weak dollar and supply and demand, but we need to do something about the first two to make the price more closely tied to the latter.

GT: On a lighter note, and because this is a SPORTS site, let's get into your sports interests. What are your favorite sports teams, college and pro?
xatomdmasher: UNC is by far my top team in all sports. I also like the Minnesota Vikings (favorite growing up because of the Purple People Eaters), Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Reds, and I’ve developed an affinity for West Georgia for some reason.

GT: Favorite individual players?
xatomsmasher: Most of my favorite players have retired. Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith and Lawrence Taylor were some of my favorites that I saw when I was at UNC. Of today’s players, I like Julius Peppers, Rasheed Wallace, Payton Manning, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Manny Ramirez.

GT: Were you active in sports growing up?
xatomsmasher: Before high school I played organized baseball and football. I dropped out of both right before high school, but continued to play pick up games of both as well as basketball until a few years ago. In high school I played against people on the varsity team a lot of times and had no problem keeping up. I just think I had a problem with authority around the start of high school.

GT: So, let's get into the good stuff, shall we? Can you tell us how you came to play GD?
xatomsmasher: It’s been so long ago, I don’t remember real well. I had been playing some of the games on espn.com and was looking for something more satisfying. I found WIS and initially only played hoops dynasty. Once I started GD I found that I liked the level of control versus that offered by HD.

GT: I remember, long ago before you hooked me on this game, hearing you talk to the guy in the cubicle next to me about this game and how your teams were doing. It did have me a little curious, but I never pulled the trigger on signing up until a bit later. Now here we are. I am Aaron and I’m a GD Addict.  Anyways… when you were first learning the game, was/were there any coach(es) who you shaped your game after or asked lots of questions?
xatomsmasher: Not really, I’ve always been someone who likes to discover things for myself. I will say that part of that reading the forums for things to try, but I didn’t really have a mentor. In my second season, I was in D-II and had a horrible recruiting season. I was complaining in the forums and was told not to worry about it by the other coach in the conference (irish99).

GT: Well, I’m glad you learned a lot that you could pass on to me when I was first learning the game, because it really sped up my growth in the game.  And these days, now that you've joined a select group of coaches with double-digit NCs, are there coaches you still correspond with to trade ideas and gather additional tips from?
xatomsmasher: I have gained insight from ddingo and daily talks with you. It’s been a while but wodrow was a resource when he was still around.

GT: If you had to pick the one coach -- past or present -- which you would least like to play, who would that be?
xatomsmasher: It’s hard to limit it to one coach because I can’t choose between Jeffkaleb and 34jayhawk. But there are other tough matchups as well, ddingo, plague, deandg. You are another coach I find difficult to gameplan for because our approaches are so similar.

GT: Sometimes, I think pure luck – good and bad – determines the outcome of like 95% of our match-ups.  On the other hand, is there a coach with a high degree of success in their own right, who you've somehow managed to get (and maintain) the upper-hand on during your head-to-head match-ups?
xatomsmasher: I don’t know, I don’t really notice unless I’m on the losing end. There have been some good coaches in the PAC-10 in Leahy that I have had a lot of success against. But that is because of the inherent advantages of being at USC.

GT: What is your fondest GD memory? What about your "least fond" memory?
xatomsmasher: My fondest memory was my first national championship at UNC. I think I was smiling for a week after that. Close behind is my recent run of national championships in Bryant, Leahy and Stagg, culminating in the three consecutive NC’s in Stagg. That was my most successful period in GD to date.  
My least fond was losing the D-II NC by a missed extra point in overtime. I hate kickers in this game.

GT: Oh, I’d forgotten about that missed-XP loss when I composed that question! I’m glad for the waiting period for handgun purchases, because there could’ve been a workplace shooting that day. Haha.  You've had an amazing degree of success in Dobie, but have come up JUST short of the ultimate goal of a NC as of yet. Still, it seems your interest in Dobie is second-to-none among the worlds you’re involved with. Can you tell us about your feelings for the Dobie world and what it's been like being on the leading edge of move-ups?
xatomsmasher: Dobie has become my favorite world. I have really enjoyed trying to stay on the leading edge of the coaches moving up. I was near that edge in Leahy, but it was my first world and I didn’t really appreciate what was happening.

GT: Offensively, what style of offensive team gives you the most trouble?
xatomsmasher: Right now, I would say a team with a real stud RB. I used to have a lot of problems with passing teams, but I feel a lot more comfortable defending the pass now.

GT: Do you have any theories as to why this is?
xatomsmasher: I think that the game is setup so that it can be almost impossible to stop a really strong running game, especially at higher levels. I prefer to limit YPC, but at D-IA sometimes you have to go for the turnover instead.

GT: That serves as a good lead-in to my next question. There is a current thread in the Main GD forum relating to cores and their relative importance. Central to that thread is a discussion on RBs and what makes for the dominant ones. On this topic, can you tell us a little bit about your process for identifying the attributes that you think are most important for a position and how you go about determining the "relative importance" of each?
xatomsmasher: Observation is the main tool. I look at my most successful teams/players and other successful teams/players and try to see what they have in common. I think you need to go into more detail than looking at full season results. You have to see what combinations have success against teams that have success in the playoffs/bowl games. There are a lot of players that perform well against average/bad teams, but then can’t do anything in the quarterfinals or beyond. The players I try to recruit are the ones that have combinations of strengths that are similar to players on teams that have had postseason success.

GT: Observations are key, indeed. These interviews have, over time, given us a glimpse into the heads of some of the game's truly great coaches. It seems there's always some new nugget of information to be taken from them that can be used to improve a coach's game, no matter how long they've been active. To that end, what nugget of information are you willing to share that has not been covered in the interviews? (I know... tough one! I'm a hardball journalist.)
xatomsmasher: That is tough. I think you covered the one that has made the biggest difference to my results in your interview. Changing the way I thought about pass defense was a giant step in improving my defensive results. Other than that… let’s see… to go along with that topic, I think that a big misconception in the game is that aggressive passing means big gains and conservative passing means short gains. I know that there are very successful coaches that tend to pass very conservatively and have a lot of 20+ yard completions. I think the determining factors are the skill of the defense and the style of defense being played.

GT: If you had to rank the levels, from favorite to least favorite, how would they rank?
xatomsmasher: D-II, D-IA, D-III, D-IAA

GT: Why is D-II your favorite? What separates it from the other levels, for you?
xatomsmasher: I like D-II because with the right defense, you can still stop most running games and the passing game is a viable offense. Also, you don’t have as much recruiting overlap with D-IAA as D-IAA has with D-IA.

GT: For those who may not have much experience coaching against you, can you tell us a little bit of your philosophy on constructing and managing your teams?
xatomsmasher: I build my teams to do two things run and stop the run. I focus on both lines and my RB's and will sacrifice at other positions in order to get the players I want at those positions. I like to redshirt one RB, preferably with high potential, each season. I have learned from experience that it is good to take at least one RB each season.  I like to have enough OL and DL to keep them at very high effectiveness settings. When looking for a team to take I will often look at the ratings of just the lines and the RB's. And look for enough open scholarships to improve these three positions. For my top OL I look for Blk, Str, ST and Tech (in that order) and for DL I look for Tkl, Str, St and Tech. I use other attributes as tie breakers for players that are close.

GT: OK... now for a few rapid-fire questions. Just respond quickly, with your first thought. Short answers preferred...

1) Most underrated attribute in the game?
xatomsmasher: Even though it is gaining in popularity I still think stamina is underrated.

2) Most overrated attribute in the game?
xatomsmasher: Speed

3) Best school for recruiting, any level?
xatomsmasher: Humboldt State

4) If you could only build one position at a time, which would be first?
xatomsmasher: RB. DL is a close second.

5) Which is more important for player growth -- WE or potential?
xatomsmasher: potential

6) Who's going to win the Stagg D-II NC this season: Virginia State, West Georgia, or other? :)
xatomsmasher: West Georgia ;)

(Editor’s Note: gt_deuce coaches Virginia State and gaheel84 (aka, xatomsmasher) coaches West Georgia in Stagg D-II.)

GT: Are there any goals you have for this game that you've yet to fulfill?
xatomsmasher: D-III NC and D-IAA NC

GT: Well, I’ve certainly enjoyed the interview and I’m sure that the participants of Dobie will, too. Yet another example of one of the great coaches in GD giving a “peek behind the curtain” that should serve as useful information for any coach looking to take their game to the next level.

Thanks to gaheel84/xatomsmasher for taking the time to give such insightful answers.