Friday, June 26, 2009

SPORTS >> New NP coach nears completion of football staff

Leader sportswriter

First-year North Pulaski football coach Rick Russell is preparing his new team for 7-on-7 scrimmages in mid-July before two-a-days start in the first week of August.

Russell, who took over from Tony Bohannon in the spring, is still in the process of familiarizing himself with the new faces, as well as building a coaching staff from the ground up.

“I’m still getting to know the kids,” said Russell. “They are good quality kids, and they are com about the participation of the kids through the summer.”

Close to 40 players from freshmen through seniors have been reporting for summer drills on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Falcons will begin summer 7-on-7 league play in Cabot on July 14. The drills have focused on agility, and strength as the players have spent plenty of time in the weight room.

Russell credits much of his smooth transition from his former Jacksonville High School, where he served as defensive coordinator under Johnny Watson and later Mark Whatley, to his defensive coordinator, J.B. Pendergraft.

Pendergraft is best known to longtime central Arkansas football fans as a star running back for the UCA Bears back in the late 1960s, but has also coached in the college ranks as a defensive coordinator at Southern Arkansas University.

“He kept things going in the spring,” said Russell. “He got me to the right players when I needed to get to them. He just made it so much easier. From checking their grades to handling a lot of the logistics, he’s been a great help.”

Russell is also bringing some more of the Red Devil flavor to the home of the Falcons with new running backs/secondary coach Terrod Hatcher, who was a star running back at JHS from 2003-05.

“Anybody can be a good coach,” said Russell. “There’s books and videos and everything else out there for people to use, but these are men of character. They put kids first. They’re all about promoting kids.”

Russell said the only spot left to fill on the staff is receiver coach. He has a strong prospect but the deal has not yet been finalized.

As a new football coach at a program which has struggled to just five wins in six seasons, Russell is taking more of a business-as-usual approach.

“We’re not looking back,” said Russell. “All we’re doing is looking forward. We want to get better each and every day. A coach once told me that you either get better everyday or worse everyday, but no one stays the same. The way these kids have been working, we should be a competitive football team.”