Dawn of a new era: Jackets’ Thomas leads first practices

  • Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Staff Photo by Scott Rodgers North Augusta’s new head football coach, Brian Thomas, explains a drill to defensive backs.


This is the fun part for new North Augusta High School head football coach Brian Thomas.

Thomas, who came to the school from Northern Guilford High School in Greensboro, North Carolina, last month, had his first chance to see what he has with the Jackets.

The first spring practices were held last week.

“It has been fantastic to have these first three days in helmets,” he said. “We’ve installed a lot here. We’re sticking primarily with what we’ve had offensively; defensively, we’re implementing more of the system I used up there. It has been great, the kids are wonderful, and a lot of hard work has taken place. The kids have taken to it quickly, and I look forward to getting out there in pads and seeing what we can do.”

Thomas credits the staff already in place when he arrived as being a major part of why things are running so smoothly.

He was able to retain offensive coordinator Craig Gilstrap and defensive coordinator Derrick Quinn, along with many other position coaches. On defense, the change will be to a 4-2-5 scheme that will feature the zone blitz. Thomas said it was successful in North Carolina thanks to a lot of team speed, and he feels he can also do that at North Augusta by maximizing the athletes at his disposal.

Rising stars

Another plus comes at quarterback, with rising senior Trib Reece.

“Trib is getting a lot of interest,” Thomas said. “He’s a good quarterback, has a great arm and he’s doing a lot of things on the field leadership-wise in these first three days. I like seeing that and seeing him take on that leadership role. Victor Johnson is another player, he’s very athletic and very long. I’m excited about his prospects, and he has a number of offers already. I’m sure there will be more to come.

“You go and look around, and skill-wise, we have some kids to get the ball to. On the offensive side, we’re going to have to do what we’ve done in the past – spread out the ball and let the athletes take over. Defensively, the quickness seems real good. We have a couple of good linebackers, of course Rashad Byrd being one of those, and they’re all doing real well. There are going to be some kids who didn’t get some playing time last year who are going to step up. We look athletic on that side of the ball, and that’s the thing that the game has gotten to these days. It’s not like the old days about plugging in the gaps – it’s about running and making plays in space.”

New leadership

Thomas said he hasn’t had many challenges yet, short of moving some furniture into the office, remembering names and keeping up with his duties as the school’s athletic director.

“We had over 100 kids come out for spring practice,” he said. “That’s exciting, but you have to put that together, as well with the AD role. I’m trying to manage all that, but it has been a good transition.”

Thomas is also urging athletes to take on multiple sports.

One example is Chandler Harrison, known for his work on the basketball team, taking up football for his senior year as a wide receiver.

“I grew up with athletics; my parents were athletic, playing basketball and things,” Thomas said. “I’ve always been big on the fact that you don’t need to limit yourself. You never know what opportunity may open up to you. I always use the examples from up in Greensboro. We had a couple of kids who didn’t play football their junior year. They played before that year, but they didn’t have that film and wanted to stick straight to basketball. So, their senior years, they came out for football, and both are on full rides playing football.

“In my opinion, I think doing the same thing over and over gets stale, and sometimes kids burn out. I encourage kids to go out and get skills in one sport and use another to build on them.”

North Augusta’s spring game will be on Friday, May 30.

Thomas is shooting for a start time of 6 p.m., and there will be no admission fee or concessions. However, it will be the public’s first chance to take a look at what the future holds.

“We’re not trying to make any money off it,” he said. “We’re going to feed the kids afterward, but we just want the public to come out and enjoy it.”

Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.

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