FNF Coaches Talk for Oct. 23

Let’s get right to it today. Here are some of the stories we’re talking about in our newsroom.

1. ‘We got this one right’: No. 1 Hattiesburg’s climb began with hire of 4th coach in 4 years (Mississippi Today)

This is one of our favorite stories from this football season. Tony Vance took over as the Hattiesburg coach four years ago under less-than-ideal circumstances, to put it mildly.

And it began with more than a bang. Vance arrived on the job on Feb. 11, 2013. That was the day after a monstrous EF4 tornado blew through Hattiesburg with winds of more than 170 mph, causing more than $35 million of damage, including much to the Hattiesburg High campus.

The story takes us through that first season in 2013 when Hattiesburg practiced without a roof on their weight room and locker room. Vance led his team to a 4-8 record that season, only to offer the athletic director the opportunity to fire him for the team’s lack of success on the field.

“Tony came in, pretty distraught, and said he understood if I wanted to let him go,” Trussell says. “I told him, ‘Hold on, remember what you said, this is a process.’”

What has Coach Vance done in his five-plus years at Hattiesburg? The Tigers finished 5-7 in 2014, 8-4 in ’15, 10-3 in ’16, and 14-1 last season when they reached the State 5A championship game before losing to powerful West Point. They are 7-0 this season.

We love stories like this about coaches who started at the bottom with their players and worked their way up.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give a coach who is just starting a rebuilding effort?

2. High school kickers polish their game, and significance, to new heights (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

This is an interesting story about a trend in high school football. The Star-Tribune reports that kickers are impacting the high school game like never before. Due to specializing training programs, kickers have longer range.

With the growth in the number of quality kickers, the mindset of coaches has changed.

The trend understandably also extends to punting. St. Francis junior Hunter Dustman is used as an example as a top kicking/punting prospect in Minnesota.

In a trend that appears to be growing, Dustman also gave up soccer, which he played for 13 years, to focus on kicking a football.

We often hear that specialization is a problem for the sport of high school football, but in the case of kickers, it certainly seems to be a good thing.

What is your strategy for finding and developing a kicker and punter?

3. Don’t Ever Ask Me “What’s The Defensive Call?” (First Down Playbook)

This is kind of a deep dive if you’re looking for a podcast. We found it interesting to hear former prolific FBS defensive coordinator Art Kaufman talk about in-game communication. Kaufman has been a defensive coordinator at Cal, North Carolina and Texas Tech.

Kaufman’s main point of emphasis when stressing in-game communication is that confusion is the root of many big mistakes. For a defensive coordinator, making the wrong call is a better alternative than making a call that confuses players.

He makes it clear that he never wants his defense to ask him the question “what’s the defensive call?” Seasoned coaching veteran Art Kaufman knows that if they are asking that question then it may be too late. Coach Kaufman gives them the defensive call for the entire season in the first meeting and then the defense evolves from that point.

It’s certainly a worthwhile podcast to listen to for defensive coaches — particularly those who are struggling to combat the spread, uptempo offense.

What is your in-game strategy when your players don’t understand the play call?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!