Sports

August 3, 2013

Prep football: Shock to the system

Chad Brewer is telling the truth when he says he hasn’t changed his approach on the football field in his new job as head coach at Murray County High School.

Anyone who watched him as an assistant during practices and games at Northwest Whitfield last season or the 11 years prior at Southeast Whitfield has seen — and heard — the animated, energetic, instant feedback-driven, highly vocal approach Brewer believes in when it comes to getting his point across to players. Good or bad, his pupils need not wonder what Brewer thinks. He lets them know.

But while Brewer hasn’t tailored his approach to the Indians, it would seem to be tailor-made for a program in desperate need of a jolt. Murray County went 0-10 last season, and at this point that kind of mark is hardly a blip — the Indians haven’t had a winning record or made the postseason since 2005, and they’ve won just seven games over that same stretch, with two of those victories coming by forfeit.

Their new coach’s energy certainly can’t hurt in a place where there hasn’t been much to be excited about lately on the scoreboard.

“I’ve not shown any more or less energy here than I’ve shown at (previous jobs),” Brewer said. “I’m the same coach that I’ve been the whole time. For some reason, God blessed me with a little bit of energy and a love for football, so when I’m out there I’m actually having fun. Not too many people have fun at work like I do.”

Brewer was upbeat — as he often is, no matter the circumstances — after the Indians finished Friday morning’s shoulder pads-helmets-and-shorts practice session at Murray Field, where they planned to scrimmage in full pads Friday night in front of fans as part of their “Meet the Indians” event. But he admitted the Indians didn’t have him feeling as good Thursday night during their first full-contact practice of the preseason.

It was the jump they made in that span of less than 12 hours that helped him feel better about the direction the Indians’ camp might take, and even players admitted they were crisper in the new day’s light.

“We made a huge jump,” senior fullback Jordan Walls said. “We were a lot more talkative. We were even more physical, and we weren’t even allowed to take people to the ground (Friday morning) — but we were still more physical. The offense was fired up every time they did something good, and I like how coach Brewer’s making the defense run to the ball and break them down because it gets them fired up, too.”

While Brewer may not hesitate to compare one practice to the previous session, he has been careful about dwelling on the program’s recent history with players who know the struggles all too well. Instead of hearing about past seasons, the 67 players who are out this preseason — a tally that includes 11 seniors and seven starters on each side of the ball — are receiving big doses of information on what they need to do to be ready for this season.

Those tasks include continuing to install a new offense — Nevada’s pistol scheme — and figuring out a way to patch a defense that was porous last year while giving up 41 or more points in each game. Brewer knows attitude changes must underline the physical challenges his team faces.

“We have to respond to adversity better than we have done here in this program the last couple of years,” he said.

Brewer also knows players don’t know what they need to do if coaches don’t tell them.

“That’s how I wanted to be coached always, and that’s how I was coached from little league through high school through college,” said Brewer, who played at the University of Tennessee-Martin. “I wanted somebody telling me something every play, good or bad. That’s why I try to always coach kids like that. Do I do it every time? No. But I try to make sure they hear something. And don’t just say ‘Good job,’ say ‘Good job at ...’ I think that goes a long way and kids like that.”

Senior right guard/nose guard Clay Thornbury said he has enjoyed Brewer’s style so far.

“He’s the best motivator I’ve ever had in football, out of any coach I’ve ever had” Thornbury said. “He’s into it and you can tell he’s focused. He’s always seeing what we’re doing — good, bad. Automatically when you do something, he tells you. That’s what coaches are supposed to do.”

Said senior left guard/middle linebacker Zach Broome, “He speaks his mind and gets us all pumped up with his energy.”

A summer of steady attendance and solid gains in the weight room — as well as the leadership displayed there by some players — encouraged Brewer, but he knows the days are short between now and the Indians’ Aug. 30 season opener at Coahulla Creek, which won its varsity debut 55-6 a year ago at Murray Field.

It’s the season that will tell the story, and Brewer is working on making it a better one.

“You learn something every day,” he said. “My whole drive home I think about things I could have done better and should have done better, and I try to change those the very next day, because I want to make sure we’re practicing the right way and getting as many reps in as we can to try to make our team as good as we can be.”

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