By R. Alan Richardson
The times they are a changin’. The Morgan County football team will head into spring practice next week missing some important and recognizable faces. Defensive coordinator, Allen Crowley, and offensive coordinator, John Robbins, will no longer be with the Bulldogs on the sidelines and will be sorely missed. Crowley is a lifer with the Morgan County program having been the starting quarterback before coming back home to spend his entire coaching career with the Dogs’ program. Robbins has coached multiple sports since arriving on the scene in the early 2000’s replacing Tim Stoudenmire as the head wrestling coach. He joined the football staff as well eventually becoming our offensive coordinator. His success in football, wrestling, and tennis speaks for itself.
These two men have set the bar high winning a 2016 Region 8-AAA Championship and will be a hard act to follow for the two young aspiring coaches taking their place. The new coordinator positions will be filled by Wade Woodall on offense and Brett Bell on defense. After talking with both of these coaches, they understand the difficulty involved in filling these big shoes.
Coach Woodall is in his first year at Morgan County coming to the Bulldogs from Flowery Branch High School where he was the quarterbacks coach for two seasons. Before that he served five years on the Oconee County staff as a community coach while attending UGA. The 28-year-old taught and coached at Oconee one year after receiving his degree in mathematics. Woodall played a year of football at Lagrange as a wide receiver and was also a wide receiver in high school at Oconee. This year he has played a vital role in both football and baseball as an assistant coach.
Bell is no stranger to this community. He was a quarterback at Morgan County under Coach Kenny Moore graduating in 2007 when Crowley and Bill Malone were the assistants. His football background runs deep as the son of another legendary player and coach who also played the same position, Davis Bell. Brett started his coaching career at Henderson Middle School in Jackson as the offensive and defensive line coach before coming home to roost as the defensive backs coach the past four seasons at Morgan. He has also been the JV girls’ basketball coach during that time under Josh Reeves. His teams have had much success on the hardcourt as well.
Coach Bill Malone stated, “We’ve lost two excellent, proven coaches with a ton of experience on both sides of the ball in Coaches Crowley and Robbins. Our new guys replacing them have a wealth of experience as well to be as young as they are (28) and they bring a lot of enthusiasm. They have a knack for getting the best out of players, know football, and connect with kids very well. This was an easy decision for me based on those facts.
Athletic Director, Doug Connelly, mirrored Malone with his comments, “These two understand that they have big shoes to fill, but it’s an exciting time when you bring in new blood. Young guys can bring fresh ideas and different philosophies to the table. They are energetic and have a great opportunity to show what they’re made of by putting their own stamp on it. We’ve lost two great coaches that have done an outstanding job for a number of years, but change can bring excitement. Football always changes, so I’m hoping these guys can show us all what they can bring to the table for the future.
Bell talked about the opportunity with these statements, “I’m really honored to get this opportunity. I learned so much from Coach Crowley. It was a great experience for me. He taught me coaching lessons about attention to detail and preparation that I’ll always take with me. He never got outworked.
In today’s game, the toughest thing to deal with is the run-pass option. Officials and the game have changed in that offensive linemen are getting away with blocking five yards down the field. It’s hard to read and teach or coach your players how to read their keys. The blocking schemes are difficult to recognize. We’ll be playing a little bit differently on defense due to our personnel. With losses that amounted to 890 pounds we’ll be smaller, but we are probably more athletic. It will be important to give offenses different 3, 4, and 5-man looks while keeping things as simple as possible. We’ll try to move around as little as possible against motion and limit the big plays. The parts I love most about the game are making adjustments, finding the right players, positions, and the chess match. That’s what makes it fun.”
Woodall was quick to recognize his good fortune saying, “The Lord works in ways we don’t understand. We don’t know why and take what’s dealt. I’m fortunate and grateful for the confidence and trust Coach Malone and Coach Connelly have shown toward me to get the job done. Maybe I was just in the right place at the right time. I’ve got a one-and-a-half month old little girl at home now and was driving 55 minutes to work one way. The stars aligned just right to come here. Working with Coach Robbins and Malone was great. I learned a lot and enjoyed my time working with them and the entire staff. This is a great place to teach and coach.
Our offense will look different this year as we go to the spread and more of an up-tempo offense utilizing the run-pass option. Coach Bell calls it basketball on grass. We hope to create mismatches and chaos as the offense brings some havoc to the defense. We’ll have to play a lot of players and use some substitutes with some of our players playing both ways so there exists an opportunity for players to play as they show us what they can do.
Spring practice begins on May 8 and will continue for two weeks.