It has been a busy off season as the domino effect has led to more coaching turnover over the past few weeks. Several are quality leaders who have been around the coaching game for quite a while.
The Mobile – Baldwin County area has seen a flurry of changes. Muskingum Barnes left Murphy after two seasons and was replaced by Escambia County’s Rico Jackson in December. In 2 years in Atmore, Jackson had revived the Blue Devils making leading them to their first winning season in 8 years.
“Murphy is a high prestige job,” Jackson told Al.com. “It’s a job, a school, with a lot of tradition. The name carries respect around the state. I feel like I’m charged with helping restore the name so to speak. It’s a challenge, but I’m always ready for that. I was blessed just to get an interview, much less to be offered the job.”
Former Murphy Coach Rick Cauley was hired to head the program at Davidson High School in December as well. He spent 2018 as head coach at B.C. Rain. Cauley is best known for his 19 years at Murphy, including his last three years as head coach. He left the Panthers for a brief stint at Gulf Shores but left there without coaching a game.
Just before Christmas, Baker High School took the interim tag off of Steve Normand. Normand had replaced Danny Smith at mid season. Normand, 54, has been at Baker 16 years and has worked under four head coaches – Chip Menton, Tim Massengale, Jack French and Smith. Normand took an 0-3 team and rallied the Hornets to a 5-5 record. “I guess I am up to the plate now,” Normand joked. “I’m excited about it. I feel like there is so much potential at Baker. I know people talk about us being the second largest school in the state, but we are also a community school. There is a lot of potential for growth even though we are busting at the seams almost.
Citronelle also hired their interim coach on a permanent basis. Jason Barnett had replaced Rusty Funk in June and led the Wildcats to a 6-5 record and a playoff berth. Chris Raymond was hired at Leflore High School, the same school that had relieved him of his duties before Anthony Shamburger became the head coach. Raymond was 19-26 in four seasons at Leflore with 3 playoff appearances. “My mindset is to come in and let people know we can win ballgames there, to instill confidence in the kids.,” Raymond said. “I love LeFlore. It’s my school, and I want to see it do well.”
Early in January, B.C. Rain tapped longtime Daphne assistant Lawrence Yelding as their new man. A graduate of Fairhope High and Alabama State University, Yelding had spent the past two decades at Daphne. He spent 19 of those years as an assistant football coach under Steve Savarese, Glenn Vickery and Kenny King. He has coached defensive line, secondary, inside and outside linebackers and running backs. “We will prepare to win from here on out – in the weight room, in the classroom and in the community, Yelding said when hired. “If we win in all those aspects, winning on the field will come. We can’t control the size of the school or the region we compete in. We can control what we do.”
The new Orange Beach High School has hired Robertsdale coach Chase Smith. After spending seven years on the staff at South Alabama, Smith spent last year at Robertsdale where the Golden Bears went 2-8 in Class 6A, Region 1.
“The opportunity to build something from the ground up with a vision in mind is truly rare,” Smith said. “I cannot express how excited I am to take on this task of building a culture of excellence with like minded and purpose driven people that will make up The Mako family.” He said officials are still working on a timetable and plan for athletics at the school. The Makos likely will field a freshman team in 2019 followed by two years of junior varsity football before moving up to the varsity level.