Every high school football team has changes to deal with from year to year. Players graduate, and others move up and join in.
For the Bryant Hornets, too, there have coaching changes from year to year and 2018 is no different. With the well-earned retirement of defensive line coach Brad Stroud, the program’s last link to the core staff that turned the Hornet program from perennial loser into a perennial winner, and the hiring of defensive coordinator and secondary coach Darrell Burnett as head coach at Hot Springs, Bryant head coach Buck James had some big shoes to fill. Burnett was a tough, smart, high energy assistant on a staff that got a lot of rope, from James, to coach their way.
In their stead, James brought in Quad Sanders, a collegiate assistant, to take as defensive coordinator and secondary coach, and B.J. Shuler off the Bryant Middle School staff as defensive line coach.
“We’ve got Quad Sanders from UAM,” James said. “Quad’s been around in college football for the last eight years. He’s been at some junior colleges in Kansas and Colorado, and Division II schools.
“The head coach at UAM, Hud Jackson, coached Quad at UCA and talked him into coming in there with him,” he continued. “He comes highly recommended. Coach Jackson told me that he felt like the strength of their football team was the position that Quad was coaching. I was very impressed with him. He brings a dimension that we’re losing in Coach Burnett.
“It’s been so late that, really he has to learn what we do instead of us learning what he does,” James related. “So, everything he’s ever done, while it’s still football, he’s got to change terminology.
“But there’s some things he’s brought in that’re going to be beneficial to us,” the coach mentioned. “This gives every kid a new chance. That’s a positive. He has good enthusiasm. He’s a likable guy. The kids really like him. And he brings a presence. He’s a 6-4, 260-pound guy and still looks like he could play. And the kids like that.
“We’re glad we’ve got him,” James asserted. “But it’s going to be an adjustment for him and an adjustment for our players.”
Regarding Shuler, James said, “He was a full-time sub when Coach (Robert) Hooks left (to become head coach at Osceola after the 2015 season) and I was very impressed with him then, how he was able to relate with our kids and stuff.
“I think it’s a good change for us,” he added. “I think our defensive linemen have continued to get better. You know, Coach Stroud did a tremendous job with those guys. For a couple of years before I got here, just watching on film, they played really well. And they played really well for us the last two years.
“I think Coach Shuler can come in and build off what Coach Stroud’s done,” the coach said, “and I think we can be better than we were the last couple of years. That’s what we want.
“The same thing with Coach Sanders. I think what Coach Burnett’s built off of the last two years, he can come in and improve on it. That makes it special.”
The Hornets are working relentlessly in the weight room once again this season, under the tutelage of Chris Jordan, who has been a volunteer assistant.
“He’s volunteered for two years,” James noted. “They hired him this spring. He played at Benton, was a safety at UCA. He’s been a strength coach at ASU and UCA, been on college strength staffs there. He’s been at D1 the last few years.”
The head coach’s coach of making the players bigger, faster, stronger has been followed through on by Jordan.
“I like him because he has a power-lift background and that’s where my cup of tea is,” James said. “What he’s been able to do is bring some flexible or leverage-type strength, more movement strength with it.
“I like the way our kids look. I like the way they move. It’s going to make us better. Right now, we’re bigger and stronger than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here. We’re changing kids’ bodies. We’re still doing the peanut butter and jelly, the milk. The kids are bought in to what we’re trying to get accomplished.
“When we tested, we had 50, 60 kids that showed improvement, just in one or two lifts,” the head coach related. “We’re on the right track. We just need kids to understand their role and work hard. Then, when it’s their time to go and shine, they do it. Don’t be impatient.
“That’s a key to it,” he asserted. “Having kids understand what their role is for the football team. They see that they’re one play away from starting. It’s got to be important. It can’t just be about my playing time or ‘What about me?’ It’s got to be about what’s for the team. Football is the ultimate team sport. We’ve got to have guys that are unselfish and are willing to do what it takes to be successful.”