Steve Wood, who coached Aledo defenses to four state championships over the past 12 years, won’t have much problem with game plans and halftime adjustments as he moves from coordinator to head coach this season.
Wood’s reign at Aledo — whether it’ll be on a one-year interim basis or longer, as his predecessor expects — began Monday morning as the Bearcats opened practice.
He was named Aledo’s interim coach for 2014, following the resignation of Tim Buchanan 11 days ago. Buchanan coached the Bearcats for 21 years but stepped down to focus full-time on his district athletic director duties.
“It’s been interesting, but it really hasn’t been a whole lot different, just because we all have our roles here and everybody is still here, other than “Coach Buck” coaching, but “Coach Buck” is still here,” Wood said. “There’s little things that come up like who’s going to have the flag out there? Who’s going to turn on the lights? There’s a lot of jobs that have been somebody’s job, but I haven’t been involved with it. You just want to be sure you have everything covered.”
Meanwhile at Grapevine, coach Randy Jackson, who had a successful run at Mesquite Poteet before a one-year stop at Plano East in 2013, also started practice Monday with the Mustangs. Grapevine went 1-9 last year.
“We’re going to convince them they can win,” said Jackson, who led Poteet to the 4A state semifinals in 2012. “It’s really the fun part of coaching. The kids at Poteet bought in totally. I think the kids here have bought in.”
Addressing the entire team for the first time since his job change, Buchanan explained his decision, then received a standing ovation before Wood took the reins for his first practice as head coach.
Buchanan watched for about the first half-hour of drills.
“It’s a little sad,” Wood said. “This guy has done so much and coached for so long, and nobody wanted to see him go. I mean nobody. It’s not like he’s really gone. It’s just — I don’t know — it doesn’t seem like he should be done coaching.”
The Aledo staff is still intact as it was before Buchanan resigned, so Monday’s workouts were mostly business as usual. Wood worked primarily with the defense, and the team’s practice schedule was the same as it’s always been.
“The kids knew where to go and what was going on,” Wood said. “I just thought it was like any other practice I’ve had here the last 12 years, other than talking to them at the end and the beginning.”
The offense that set a national scoring record (1,023 points) in 2013 was still largely intact on Monday.
Luke Bishop worked at quarterback, with running backs Isaiah Mallory and Jess Anders rotating in.
Up front, returning starters junior Hunter Harris and sophomore Wes Harris were active on the offensive line.
Bishop was happy the school promoted from within to replace Buchanan.
“We’re all excited that Coach Wood is going to be the man,” Bishop said. “We’re glad it’s staying in the system, that we hired him and didn’t go get a new guy.”
Senior wideout Ryan Newsome was suited up but didn’t work out. Wood said the senior had a slight hamstring strain, but should be fine in a few days.
Newsome holds nearly 40 FBS scholarship offers. He’s narrowed his choices to Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA and Tennessee.
Defensive back Johnny Durham made a nice play during one-on-one drills, tipping a pass away from his receiver and catching it just before going out of bounds for an interception.
Durham, who committed to Texas State last week, is expected to lead a young Aledo defense.
“We just have to grow a bunch of them up,” Wood said. “We’ve got some guys that can play ball. We’ve just got to get them in tune, get them where they know their job inside and out where they can go play full speed.”
Mustangs’ new motto
TPW, which stands for “Tough People Win,” is the new mantra at Grapevine.
It’s on T-shirts, coaches’ hats, and stenciled everywhere in the locker room.
“You don’t have to be tall. You don’t have to be fast. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be anything if you can just be tough,” Jackson said. “It’s a great thing to build your program around because it’s a characteristic we sell all the time.”
Other coaches frequently ask Jackson on Twitter if they can borrow TPW for their programs.
“What a big honor,” Jackson said. “I love it. I love hearing that.”
Grapevine’s athletic program allows Jackson to have 13 coaches working with the freshmen, immersing them in the program’s new system from Day One.
It also allows the younger players to closely experience varsity football and build relationships with the coaches and players who will surround them for the next four years.
“If you want kids to lay in traffic for you, then it’s about relationships,” Jackson said. “They have to love you. This takes a couple of years. Two years from now, our kids are going to lay in traffic for us because of relationships.”
Grapevine’s offense under Jackson is similar to the spread system the Mustangs ran last year, but with more pace.
“We play pretty fast and just call things different,” Jackson said. “Spring ball was huge. I didn’t get to have spring ball at Plano East. We’re ahead of the game from where I was last year. There’s no excuses for us not to be ready to go the 29th.”