WINNSBORO — A new coach will be at the helm for Richard Winn football next fall. Coach Dan Dickerson got his first chance to evaluate talent over eight days this spring and he was encouraged with what he saw, particularly in team speed.
Dickerson spent this year coaching the offensive line at Riverside High in Greer, where he also coached track. He previously was a head coach at McCormick and at Woodruff high schools. This is his first time coaching eight-man football.
“We had a younger guy who said that he had never played eight-man football but I told him not to worry because I’d never coached eight-man football, either,” he said. “There is a learning curve, especially on defense. Most of the people I’ve talked to say that they feel like with eight players they are about one man shy of being able to cover an offense that spreads the field.”
On offense they plan to run the I-Formation and run the triple option. The idea is to stretch the field horizontally to create mismatches in space as teams play assignment football.
“We want to run multiple looks from an I-set, to make the defense adjust to us,” he said.
With only two returning seniors, he knows the team will be young again this year. One senior plays on the offensive line. The other, Austin Knox, will play fullback primarily. Last year he played quarterback and running back.
Dickerson said Knox might run some wildcat offense so he could make option runs in space. In that case, they still could use his strong arm to stretch defenses and Dickerson said that they might have a few more wrinkles to put into place with Knox.
“We really have more team speed than I thought,” he said, “with seven to eight players running the 40-yard dash at 4.8 seconds or faster.”
The speed is spread around the ball handlers, including at quarterback. After playing some last season as a receiver and a backup quarterback, junior Matt Taylor will be running the show from center this year. Coach Dickerson said Taylor has a lot of football IQ and good instincts.
“He really picked up the option well, so he locked down the starting job in spring practice,” Dickerson said.
John Coleman will be starting tailback, a player Dickerson said has good speed and is a solid athlete.
The team will rely on quickness and toughness to get by with a young, relatively inexperienced offensive line. They hope that misdirection from the option plans will offset inexperience and that the line will gel as the season progresses.
Defense and special teams are a little harder to pin down at this point. Austin Knox will resume as punter but the placekicking job is up for grabs. Candidates for placekicker and kickoff specialist include Knox and Mitch Gibbons.
The defensive scheme thus far is a 3-3-2 but that might not be the defense the team ends up with. They struggled to contain the option during spring ball, so that may be something he and defensive coordinator Paul Bostrom address schematically.
This is Dickerson’s 35th year in coaching. He finished Greenwood High in 1971 as a smallish offensive lineman. He did not play college ball but found a niche on the coaching staff of Coach Shell Dula at Ninety Six. While on that staff, they won the state championship.
He then worked as a defensive coordinator for Woodruff, as a head coach at McCormick and once again was reunited with Dula at Greenwood high. This spring practice session, he managed to help out at RWA though he still is finishing up his school year at Riverside.
“I have known (RWA Athletics Director) Joe Pitt my entire coaching career. We even at one point attended the same Sunday school class together,” Dickerson said. “He’s a good guy and this is a great opportunity to work with him and all the other great folks I have met over at Richard Winn.”
Those folks include a healthy amount of student-athletes. Including middle school players, RWA had around 30 players take part in spring practice.
“The boys are excited about the change and really are looking forward to it,” he said.
Fall practice starts Aug. 1 for this bunch but their summer conditioning and weight training begin May 28.