SF stays in-house for new head coach

SF stays in-house for new head coach
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Sports Editor
South Fulton did not have to look far for its new football coach.
Eric Knott — Kelly Spivey’s top assistant the past five years — was named the Red Devils’ skipper Monday afternoon by SFHS Principal and Athletic Director Keith Frazier.
Knott replaces his former boss, who resigned those duties last month after compiling a 25-29 record during his tenure. Spivey will retain his assistant principal position at South Fulton until at least the end of the current school year.
The head coaching gig will be the second for the 40-year-old Knott, who encountered health issues while serving one season in that capacity at Dresden in 2007 when an injury-ravaged Lion team won just once in 10 games.
After that, he spent a brief three-month stint as the offensive coordinator at Obion County Central High School before Spivey came calling in search of a top aide. Knott’s previous experience as an assistant for Kevin Ward at Camden (three seasons), two years on Don Coady’s staff at Martin-Westview and time before that working with Tim Haney at Trenton made him a coveted commodity.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to be a head coach again and I will bring some different ideas and philosphies to the table this time around,” Knott told The Messenger Monday. “We’re going to institute a policy of ‘you get what you earn,’ and that goes from everything to the nicer workout gear, to the stripe on your helmet, your decals … even your locker space. At the same time, if you don’t live up to standards and expectations, those things can be taken from you.
“As far as myself, I think I’ve learned to work smarter and that doesn’t necessarily mean longer hours. Before, I didn’t trust my assistants and tried to do everything myself. This time around, I will delegate some things to my coaches and give them the opportunity to do the jobs that they were hired to do. It’s just football, and that means its not life or death, but it is important.”
Frazier handpicked Knott to take the next step up the coaching ladder and become the 20th head coach in SFHS program history, calling the new Red Devil head coach “the right fit for our program at this time.”
“Eric’s been here five years, he’s been loyal, he’s hard-working and the kids love him,” Frazier said. “Continuity was a factor, but so was looking for a good, solid head coaching candidate and he fits both those criteria. The other coaches on the staff all came forward in support of him, and that says a lot, too.
“Essentially in the last year and a half — because Kelly has had to fill an administration role — he’s handled a lot of the day-to-day operations of running the program. He’s proven himself in that role, and as a coach on the field.”
Knott said he plans to keep the same open line of communication with players that he had as an assistant, but was adamant that the buck will stop with him as the man in charge.
“As an assistant coach, I think I was the go-between a lot. The players felt like they could talk to me and could trust me without having to confront the head coach,” he explained. “They’ll still be able to talk to me. I told them I’d treat them like I do my own kids. I’ll listen to what they say and they shouldn’t be scared of me.
“In the end, though, I’m the boss. I will help them if I can and if it’s in the best interest of our program. If they need a kick in the backside, they’ll get it. If they need encouragement, they’ll get that.”
Frazier interviewed three candidates over the weekend, Knott on Friday and then two others on Saturday and Sunday. The Red Devil administrator said he received “a handful” of resumes for the position.
“I talked to a couple of good people who had good ideas, but I just thought Eric was right for us. He’ll continue doing some things already in place in our program, and he has some other good ideas that I believe will get us back to where we need to be,” Frazier said.
South Fulton made the state playoffs in three of Spivey’s seasons, but won just once in the postseason during that time. The Red Devils — 3-7 this past year — last won more than six games in a season in 2003 when they went 8-3 and have made it as far as the quarterfinals just twice in school history.
SFHS has an all-time record of 363-375-10 excluding a six-man era from 1930-38 and a period from 1942-50 when no football was played at the school.
Knott said he plans to go back to the Wing-T offensive formation the Red Devils used prior to last season.
“An old coach told me one time, ‘Do what you know best.’ I know and can teach the Wing-T best,” the new SF skipper insisted. “We’re in pretty good shape roster-wise, in our skill spots. We need to find some linemen and some depth up front.
“Defensively, we’ll be multiple, but we’ll mainly go with an even-man front.”
Knott said he’ll continue to commute to South Fulton from his home in Greenfield and didn’t see that as an issue with his new responsibilities.
“My wife (Jamie) and I have been married for 17 years and I’ve never lived in the town in which I’ve coached,” he claimed. “She (Jamie) understands the life and time requirements of a coach and she’s absolutely wonderful about that.”
The Knott family also includes sons Bryant, 12, and Jaden, 10.
In an unrelated development, Frazier said he would no longer serve as an assistant coach in football.
The remainder of Knott’s staff will stay the same with Jason Rodehaver, Brent Wilson and Justin Truett serving as fulltime aides.
Published in The Messenger 12.18.12

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