Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Randy Jackson hopes to bring winning tradition from Mesquite Poteet to Plano East
PLANO — Randy Jackson isn’t used to slow starts and doesn’t want a gradual transition.
But the new Plano East football coach knows turning the program around may not happen overnight. Practices the last two weeks have been up and down, he said, and he dismissed the team early after a bad practice Monday — four days before East’s season opener against Garland.
There’s a different scene 25 miles south at Mesquite Poteet, where Jackson went 30-9 in three seasons. Practices are running smoothly for new coach Kody Groves. The former defensive coordinator inherited a culture of winning, and he doesn’t want to change anything.
Groves, a first-time head coach, needs to maintain a proven winner. Jackson, with a track record of success, will try to change the culture at the state’s largest high school.
Plano East, with an enrollment of more than 6,000, has an underwhelming football tradition. It missed the playoffs in four of the last six seasons under coach Johnny Ringo and has made only one regional final since opening in 1981.
Jackson was a blockbuster hire in May. He’d been a miracle worker at Poteet, turning a program that won one game between the 2008-09 seasons into an instant state contender.
Reproducing that magic at Plano East, though, may prove to be more challenging.
Organizationally, Plano East is a massive undertaking. There are four middle school feeders and separate ninth- and 10th-grade campuses feeding Jackson’s program.
“I had a coaches meeting recently and there were 42 football coaches in the room,” Jackson said. “That’s unbelievable. It’s hard to wrap your arms around.”
And since he wasn’t hired until May, Jackson wasn’t able to bring in his own coaching staff. He made only three hires but said he’s been happy with the holdovers from Ringo’s staff.
Jackson invited the ninth- and 10th-grade coaches to Plano East’s early morning practices to help make the program more cohesive. He’s also trying to encourage more students to come out for the team. He said athletes at East are foregoing football for lacrosse and hockey.
The biggest challenge right now, though, and the one that caused Jackson to send his players in early Monday, has been a lack of effort.
“I know what championship practices look like,” said Jackson, who led Poteet to the state semifinals in 2010. “I have too much to be coaching that I can’t be coaching effort.”
Jackson demands game speed throughout practice, and he said players haven’t taken to the new tempo. He’s also installing a fast, no-huddle offense.
“We’ve never experienced something like this before,” senior linebacker Austin Palisch said. “We’re not used to it.”
When the effort is there, Jackson said Plano East is capable of competing for state championships. That could happen as soon as this season, he said, but only if the players buy in.
If it ain’t broke…
Jackson’s fingerprints are still all over the Poteet football program, including his schemes, his drills and his game-speed tempo.
The coaching staff under Groves remained almost completely in place, too.
“I think the whole point of me getting the job was just being able to pick up where [Jackson] left off,” Groves said. “We didn’t change a whole lot.”
Groves was an assistant coach at Midland Lee and Coppell before taking over as Jackson’s defensive coordinator at Poteet in 2012.
He learned how to run an effective 3-4 defense at Coppell and brought it with him to Poteet, which held opponents to 20 points or less in 10 games last season.
Poteet is loaded with college-level talent, including a pair of talented defensive backs in Verkedric Vaughns and Nate Gaines. Vaughns is committed to Baylor and Gaines to SMU. Linebacker Malik Jefferson, who will be one of the area’s top recruits in the 2015 class, anchors the front seven.
Jefferson was one of several Poteet players who took to Twitter to lobby on Groves’ behalf during the off-season.
“We wanted to keep everything together,” Jefferson said. “We love [Groves] as a coach. If it wasn’t him, then there might have been some struggles here.”
Groves couldn’t be happier with his circumstances — a first-time head coach at a school that will immediately compete for state championships.
And the expectations Jackson instilled remain as high as ever.
“There’s a new coach,” senior quarterback Lane Novy said, “but it’s still Poteet Pirate football.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.
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