MIAMI — Once again the coaching carousel between Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and Trinity Valley Community College has circled as the Golden Norsemen have hired former Cardinals assistant Blake Bryan as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator.
Bryan replaces former defensive coordinator and line coach Zach Allen after Allen switched to Golden Norse offensive line coach.
Over the past four seasons, two head coaches and one assistant that were members of head coach Brad Smiley’s staff have migrated north to NEO.
Current NEO head coach Clay Patterson served three seasons 2012-15 as offensive coordinator with the Cards.
Under Patterson’s guidance the Norsemen finished fourth in the SWJCFC with a 4-4 record and a 5-5 overall mark.
During the 2013 season, Sherard Poteete posted a 1-5 conference record and a 3-6-season mark in one year as head coach.
Poteete succeeded Patterson as offensive coordinator last year for his second tour with the Cardinals coaching staff.
Both Poteete and Patterson were former NEO players.
Last year, while serving his third season as linebacker coach, Bryan helped the Cardinals win both the regular season and post-season Southwest Junior College Football Conference crowns with a 7-1 record.
Trinity Valley defeated Northwest Mississippi, 34-24, in the Heart of Texas Bowl at Copperas Cove, Texas. The Cardinals finished fourth in the nation with an 11-1 record.
“I came up to Miami three weeks ago to interview with head coach (Clay) Patterson,” Bryan said. “I felt like I did great in the interview and by the time I got halfway to Muskogee, he called and offered me the job.
“After talking to my wife in Athens, I accepted the job,” Bryan said. “Since she is pregnant, we packed up and moved her to Tyler with her parents and I continued north to start NEO’s summer session on July 1.”
Following his playing career with the Cardinals, Bryan became a defensive line assistant in 2011. He switched to linebacker coach in 2013.
Bryan served in 2010 as a graduate assistant coach after his playing days at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Bryan has been working with 24 prospects during the month-long July session. Last year Bryan guided a defensive line that recorded 52 quarterback sacks, third in the conference.
Then, last Monday, Bryan was working with almost all of the prospects on special team assignments.
“So it’s been crazy these first three weeks,” Bryan said. “Especially when you consider we were working with almost 140 kids during special teams.
“My philosophy is that we’re going to come off the ball and play the system we have designed along with Coach Landry (new defensive coordinator Dustin Landry),” Bryan said. “We’re going to be extremely effective which should make things easier for the guys in the back end.
“Going into the third week, all of our prospects have proven to be extremely hard workers,” Bryan said. “They want to learn and they’re eager to learn.
“The reason I love it up here is that these kids are extremely disciplined both on and off the field,” Bryan said. “They’re where they’re supposed to be at all times and I haven’t had any disciplinary issues. Every day they come to work with a smile and we don’t have to worry about any off-the-field problems.”
Working out of several multiple front schemes, Bryan is searching for players that attack the football.
“I’m looking for kids that are explosive off the ball, that are aggressive and sound technically,” Bryan said. “We are going to fight every play, because if you look at this conference, teams that have won the championship have had the best offensive and defensive lines and have had the best quarterback.”
Depending on what type of team (passing or running) the Golden Norsemen face in five road games, that will dictate how many linemen Bryan will take on the trip.
“We want to make sure we have our best ends and tackles on the field at all times,” Bryan said. “Coach Landry says that every day is an evaluation and every day a player has either the chance to get better or the chance to get worse.
“So we want the kids to understand if they have a good week, they’re on the bus,” Bryan said. “In the same token, if they have a bad week, then they’re not on the bus.
“We want our inside guys at tackle to be physically tough,” Bryan said. “They’re going to be playing against Division I players and of course from my perspective the guys I coach are also Division I players, so they need to compete every day.”
Bryan understands that defensive linemen at this level have to have great hands, great hips and great feet.
“Every day we’re teaching our kids those three basic fundamentals,” Bryan said. “It’s like a starting over process for a lot of them.
“Some kids might be bad at using their hands or moving their feet,” Bryan said. “So, we’ve designed drills that we use every day that will emphasize one of those factors and then we’ll do a drill that focuses on all three.
“Coach Landry is big on technique, technique, technique, so we’re looking at film every day and making sure that we’re coaching it up,” Bryan said. “We just want to make sure that they understand why we’re coaching these drills.
“Our Oklahoma kids are as good as Texas linemen because they are really coached up,” Bryan said. “They are not as spoiled as Texas kids because if you play high school football in Texas you’re the man, whereas in Oklahoma, football is just another sport and these kids work and work and work.”