January 24, 2014

Barger already busy in Varnell

By Chris Whitfield

— Changes have already begun for Coahulla Creek High School’s football program under recently hired head coach Chad Barger.

Barger has spent the week at Coahulla Creek while his current employer — Clay County High School, near Knoxville, Tenn. — is closed this week because of severe weather, and he’s at work on next season for the Colts.

When Barger first met players and the community on Jan. 16, he also met with all of the members of the coaching staff under former head coach Jared Hamlin. Only three teachers currently on staff at Coahulla Creek will be on Barger’s coaching staff.

Eric Parker, who was the head junior varsity coach under Hamlin and is also the head boys soccer coach, will be the offensive line coach, and linebackers coach LaQuentin Taylor has also been retained by Barger. Head baseball coach Michael Bolen will join the football staff as the defensive secondary coach.

“We have retained a few and not retained a few,” Barger said. “We are trying to build with people that fit our philosophy. It gives me a lot of flexibility (to bring in new coaches). We will have a new look and kind of a new birth of culture around the program.”

Among those not retained were defensive coordinator Chip Fleming, who also coached the secondary, and defensive line coach Jack Gallagher. Fleming, who is also the head coach of the track and field program, was one of the original four finalists for the head coaching position in the first round of interviews, before South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider accepted the position. Grider later turned down the spot after a promised benefits package was rescinded and deemed to be a violation of Whitfield County Schools policy.

Larry Fleming, Chip’s father and a 45-year coaching veteran who has previously been a head coach, was not retained as a linebackers coach. Also, junior varsity coaches Anthony Flowers, Brent Flowers, Jack Gallagher and Michael Kinsey and community coach Travis Tyson were not retained.

“It is a clean slate,” Barger said. “It is tough sometimes coming in and using a staff of previous coaches. You may do things differently, and they may not agree. I have done it both ways and sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad. We want people loyal to the program. We want guys that are good, quality role models who have something good to offer our kids.”

Barger said he hopes to have a complete staff in place before the start of spring practice. While he is still serving out his teaching contract in Clay County, he hopes to be fully invested in the spring practices.

“I am putting a lot of mileage on the car right now, but hopefully something will work out,” Barger said. “I will be able to work out a spring practice time with the school I am at. I am going to try to fulfill my commitment to them as well, but hopefully something will work out as we go through the rest of the school year.”

While his current school system is shut down, Barger said he is taking the time to get to know his players.  

“It seems like we have some really good kids,” he said. “They are super polite and anxious to get things started. They are anxious to build something and you can’t ask for more than that.”