Discipline, Effort, Toughness
By Neil B. McGahee
Q. Do you think you can have the same success at Crisp County High School as you did at Cedar Grove?
A. Yes, I think we can. We’ve known for some time, that there’s lot of talent here and these kids are hungry for some success. And I plan to get them ready for success.
Q. How will you feel seeing your old team playing your new team?
A. That’s going to be a fun day — a tough day — but it will be fun. I really have a love for that community. I spent my entire coaching career there. One thing about me, I have a love for that community but when it comes down to it, I’m the head coach of the Crisp County Cougars.
Q. This has been a challenging offseason with the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you plan to do to make things as “normal” as possible while keeping your players safe?
A. We will have all protocols in place. We will try to keep practice as regular as possible. We will take precautions for instance, we won’t have a huddle; instead we will use hand signals. In the weight room or whenever we are in close proximity we will wear masks and signal plays. There will be temperature checks; we will sanitize everything before and after practice. The biggest thing now is not having to lose time to quarantines. As long as we, the coaches, do our jobs to keep them safe, then it will be as normal as possible.
Q. Your past program has been known for discipline, effort and toughness. How do you plan to bring that into this program?
A. I think some of it is already there, but it has to be taken to another level. They have to understand that discipline effort and toughness doesn’t just apply to football. It has to apply to the classroom, to your neighborhood and your life. I think some of the kids already have it, but a lot of these kids have a lot of growing to do. That will be taught all through here — the weight room, practices and even the way they walk through the hallways — I told them the first day, I’m that coach that shows up at your doorstep. I will peeking in the door of your classroom, I’ll always be in the hallways. From the time they wake up in the morning until they go to sleep at night, I will hold them accountable.
Q. In a previous interview you said you like to run a 4-2-5 defense? How much of a change will that be for the players?
A. Personnel-wise, we will probably run some variation of the 4-2-5. With the 4-2-5, it gives us an opportunity to match just about any personnel grouping. A lot of teams are running the spread now and this defense gives us five defensive backs downfield, or we can use the fifth player as a defensive player/linebacker. It helps us because it allows us to run different coverages — Cover1, Cover 2, Cover 3 and Cover4 — and it also allows us to send pressure from any angle. We will have two linebackers, a will and a mike, plus a nickel safety that can be used as a sam linebacker.
Q. You also said your offense will be a spread. Do you feel you have the players that can run it?
A. I am bringing Lawrence Smith, my offensive coordinator from Cedar Grove. He will call plays and be responsible mostly for the run game. I am also bringing William Richardson who coached quarterbacks at Cedar Grove in 2008-2010. He will be our passing game coordinator and work with the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Our philosophy will be to make the defense guard the entire field. Whatever they are lacking in, that’s what we are going to take advantage of.
Q. Did you keep any of the former assistant coaches?
A. Yes. I kept Jeff Wilson, the receivers coach, T.A. Alexander, the offensive line coach, Jason Slimp as a defensive coach and Jimmy Hughes, Jr. as linebackers coach.
Q. Will there be a spring practice?
A. No, because I won’t have my full staff in place. It wouldn’t do us any good to have a full spring practice if we can’t implement everything we need to implement.
Q. What do you feel you bring to this position?
A. Well, I am a winner. I bring a different mentality as far as a winning edge. I have won at every level, even as a basketball coach. I have won three state championships as a coach at Cedar Grove. That edge, just knowing how to get the best out of my kids in every aspect, both on and off the field is what makes me a proven winner.
Q. What approach do you take when your team is struggling?
A. Those are things we work on in practice. That’s part of that D.E.T. thing — discipline, effort and toughness — because there is going to be adversity in every football game, I don’t care how good you are. Those are things we talk about and taught during practice and positional meetings. If we get into an adverse situation, this is how we need to handle it. By game time, we will already know how to handle it.
Q. You will face a lot of expectations as head football coach. How will you handle that?
A. I look at expectations as an opportunity — if there were no expectations then this is probably a job I shouldn’t have taken — to show the type of coach I am, what kind of staff I have brought in and what type of young men the Crisp County schools have. I think this is going to be a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get at it.