Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Why ex-Carroll coach Todd Dodge is in his 'comfort level' at Marble Falls
MARBLE FALLS — What most people will tell you about Todd Dodge is that he thinks ahead. Everything he does has a purpose, is part of a plan that might appear hazy in the distance to many but unfolds in vivid 20-20 glory to him.
This is perfect for football, where improvisation generally gets slammed into the turf by a hulking linebacker, and for several high school seasons every Dodge strategy worked — emphasis on high school. His vision has been far from perfect since then.
Dodge left the comforts of Southlake Carroll, a four-time state champion under his direction, for an experiment at North Texas, where in 3 1/2 seasons he won just six more games than you did. Then he landed at Pittsburgh, where his exodus after one season as an assistant was pretty much necessary after head coach Todd Graham split, and now has returned to the high school level, at Marble Falls.
Marble Falls hasn’t made a deep playoff run in 20 years. Dodge has a plan, though, if you’re willing to believe him.
“He knows the culture he wants to create,” says Hal Wasson, who succeeded Dodge as Southlake Carroll coach, “and he’ll create that culture.”
Marble Falls, a gorgeous, winding 3 1/2-hour drive from Dallas, is a city of 7,500 bordered by hills and water. Dodge bought a three-bedroom house for him and his wife, Elizabeth, that overlooks Lake LBJ, where he used to boat in his younger days. Dodge says his son, Riley, will start as an assistant coach at nearby Austin Westlake in the fall, the same time his daughter, Molly, will enroll at Texas State in San Marcos. It’s perfect for his family.
In his ‘comfort level’
Dodge visited Marble Falls first in January and started the job in February, Southlake and Denton deep in his rearview mirror. He doesn’t regret any of those decisions, by the way, or at least he doesn’t say it. But he does admit that he missed high school football. Every February, he missed it.
During that month, he used to work with quarterbacks. He would separate them from the off-season training group and teach them the intricacies of the offense and the necessary codes for success: “camera on your body, rotation through, read the roof.” Instruction wasn’t as much a part of big-time college football.
“I never was one of those fiending to be a college coach much less a college head coach,” Dodge says. “Those situations came about, and it was a great time. But really my comfort level in the big picture of coaching is right where I am now.”
Dodge looks significantly older than the Dodge of five years ago, his face showing the stress, but refreshed compared with his last days at North Texas. He grips a can of Copenhagen while he speaks. He wears a black Under Armour vest over a purple long-sleeve shirt, the color of the Marble Falls Mustangs. When he peers outside his office window, he sees the future.
As part of a recent bond package, Marble Falls built a new football stadium; cosmetically, the high school is ready for progress. Dodge plans to inject life inside the program. He plans to do it the way you might expect, the way he did at Carroll.
As far back as he can tell, Marble Falls, a one-high-school town, hasn’t synced middle school and high school programs. He’ll install the same playing systems at the lower levels. He’ll work with the quarterbacks. He’ll promote what he considers the steps for the excellence he once cultivated.
After his players finished TAKS testing on a March afternoon, he brought them into the school’s wrestling room for a long talk. He outlined several maxims on a lengthy packet he had printed out, telling them this was the first of a million times he would share these expectations.
“They’ve actually been doing their stuff and not slacking off like we used to and stuff like that,” offensive lineman Chandler Mabray says of the team. “There have been a lot of changes.”
High on potential
A measure of the potential reveals a greater set of challenges. It’s a small 4A school, with 1,150 students. The stadium has generally been half-empty by late in the season. Dodge says he could have a better opportunity to win more quickly at other schools.
But he also says the commitment is here. There is the bond package, and six of seven board members are Marble Falls graduates. Superintendent Roy O’Connor contacted him and not the other way around. The other day in an off-season workout, he saw real intensity from his players. They are getting ready, and Dodge is confident he is ready.
The last night he coached high school football was the best night that he coached high school football. Southlake Carroll won the state title against Austin Westlake. This was victory No. 79 of the 79-1 record everyone discusses. For Dodge, it was special because Riley won a state title as quarterback.
The team rode from San Antonio back to Southlake on a Greyhound. Dodge wasn’t celebrating. He wasn’t even sleeping.
Possessed by an inner thought, he grabbed his game notes and started frantically highlighting the plays his team ran that night so he could cross-reference them with the plays his middle school teams ran, all to prove the planning and structure of a Todd Dodge-coached program to one person: Todd Dodge.
Comparing Southlake Carroll’s record in Todd Dodge’s last five years as coach with Marble Falls’ record over the last five years: