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Rams hire new staff

Gibson and his crew prepare to manage a team that’s ready to breakout./ Arthur Ward
Gibson and his crew prepare to manage a team that’s ready to breakout./ Arthur Ward

Head coach Mike Gibson finally has his crew

The departure of Rams coach Frank McCrystal has been well-documented, but a new coach is in and recently he decided upon his coaching staff for the upcoming year.

Any coach, at any level, will look to bring in a staff that he or she thinks allows their squad to compete to the best of their ability and, judging by the hires made, this staff’s strength is in its continuity. Two new additions join the six incumbent coaches who have previously been involved with the Rams, with one more to be added soon, with offensive coordinator still unfilled.

The process, Gibson told us, began with a feeling out process,.

“The first thing I wanted to do is get a chance to interview all the coaches who were on the previous staff to a) find out their interest in staying; and b) to find out my interest in them.”

Defensive coordinator Paul Dawson highlights the package of five coach returning from last year’s squad, a decision that coach Gibson says was partially influenced by Dawson’s understanding of the university,.

“Paul Dawson, I didn’t know at all. He was one of the [coaches] that I interviewed when I came in here. I felt that I wanted to keep someone who knew about the university, who could help me with the ins and outs of the university and just in our conversations and getting to know him, I really like Paul. I thought he’s a good person. Number one, I think he’s a good football coach, the players think very highly of him, I had meetings with all the players and I would ask them about their coaches and so forth, so that’s why I kept Paul.”

Also returning will be Alex Smith as the special teams coordinator, Steve Hanson to tutor the offensive line while being joined by Sheldon Neald. Greg Nesbitt returns as defensive line coach after a year off while Dwayne Masson has been hired to coach the running backs. Two Rams newcomers also have joined the crew: Nathan Hoffart as receivers coach and Sheldon Gray to try to stop those same pass catchers in his position as defensive backs coach.

That leaves offensive coordinator as the only job with a vacancy sign attached to it, a situation that Gibson says is not of his choosing.

“To be quite honest with you, that part wasn’t my doing. Through the university here and so forth, basically the old staff had the head coach and one full time assistant and then Paul was a [secondment] with the community. Well, now they’ve allotted two full time coaches, so just with the way that the hiring has to take place I can’t hire that person until July 1st. I’d like to have the guy here already, but I’m going to be very involved with the offense, since that’s my background. I have a number of guys who I’ve already talked to about the position, so as soon as the position officially gets posted and we can start interviewing people, then we’ll do that and we’ll have the person hired hopefully well before July 1.”

With a new staff comes a new approach and, in that regard, the Rams are no different from any other sports team. Rams player and police studies major Bryce Mckinnon says the very same.,

“Everything’s a bit more upbeat and not just so laid back anymore.”

When asked about different examples of this fresh attitude, Mckinnon highlighted a number of different slight changes that have been made while keeping much of the same from previous seasons.

“We have study hall three hours a week, everyone shows up early for the runs, everyone’s running hard. We’re doing a circuit now instead of just doing the normal kind of run we do, we changed that up a little bit. There’s a difference and you can tell there’s a difference.”

In crafting his coaching staff, Gibson highlighted the need for chemistry,

“I’ve been around a long time, so the number one thing that I’ve learned in being parts of staffs is staff chemistry. So, every hire that I made I wanted to, in my own mind, make sure that I thought they would get along, would work well together and things like that, and so that was really the biggest [thing], just making sure the pieces fit.”

Now the question is: will the coaching changes positively impact the team on the field? Coach Dawson returns for what will surely be another solid season at the helm of a defense that has produced such excellent talents as Akiem Hicks and Stefan Charles and with two coaches dedicated to tutoring the offensive line, the men in the trenches are sure to be a strong point for the team next season.

The biggest question mark for the team is who will be leading the charge for the offense. Many a head coach calls their own plays, but Coach Gibson’s commitment to hiring an offensive coordinator as soon as possible hints against the idea of him relying on his own offensive skills.

With his professional and collegiate experience in the United States and Canada I think there is a high chance that someone from his past will become a regular on the sidelines next year, something that Gibson acknowledged when the topic was broached.

“I’ve talked to a couple guys to gauge their interest. A couple had an initial interest, and we’re still in the process of having conversations, so hopefully, maybe, keep our fingers crossed, maybe you’ll see one person that would fit into that criteria join our staff. If not, those doors would always be open.”

No one will truly know what to make of the coaching changes until next season gets rolling, but Gibson’s commitment to those who know the university environment and pulling from the local community to fill out his staff gives him a solid foundation going into his final hire and his first major chance to impact the team on the field at this year’s spring camp.

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I’m not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.