Cooper Kennedy

Junior Cooper Kennedy (9) split time with Tanner Greene at quarterback last season, but will move out wide to receiver this season.

Brad Smith has seen his career go full circle.

The former Loganville High School standout player was named the program’s new head football coach on March 13. While it has been somewhat of an unusual time since his hiring, Smith said he is still right where he wants to be.

“Other than my wedding and the birth of my children, this is the proudest moment of my life,” Smith said. “I know the responsibility that comes with this position. I want something special for this program. The ultimate goal of this program is to be in the upper tier in the state. That is where we want to be.”

Smith was all set to hit the ground running in his first head coaching job, which happened to be at his high school alma mater. Not long after the announcement of his hiring, however, the COVID-19 health crisis took over the state and the country. That includes high school football.

LHS does not announce new head football coaches on a regular basis. Smith is only the fifth head coach since 1989 and that includes one coach who had a one-season stint.

Soon after his hiring, Smith began assembling his coaching staff. Zach Gordon, who coached with Smith at Calhoun High School, is the new offensive coordinator for the Red Devils. Running the football will be a key element of the LHS offensive scheme.

“We have been working on tempo and pace,” Smith said. “We are getting the mental approach down. We want our kids to play as fast as possible.”

Comparing the new Red Devil offense to what Auburn University uses, Smith said the LHS players have been excited about the scheme.

“In recent weeks we have added about eight new players to the team,” the coach said. “Some of them have never played before but are eager to be a part of this program.”

The spread-based offense will use inside zone and power counter plays.

“We will hang our hats on running the football,” Smith said.

Defensively, Ryan Angel, who was already with the program, is now the coordinator. Angel will implement a 4-2-5. With the team having speed the coaches want to take advantage of that. The new defense will also have several blitz packages.

The 2020 non-region schedule will include quality foes including Monroe Area, Forsyth Central and Parkview. Monroe Area is coached by former LHS assistant Kevin Reach who took over the Purple Hurricanes after several successful seasons at Collins Hill. Reach was part of Tommy Stringer’s staff at LHS when Smith was a player.

Parkview is led by former LHS head coach Eric Godfrey who guided the Red Devils for almost a decade after being a surprise selection going into the 2004 campaign.

The Region 8-AAAAAA schedule will include Greenbrier, Johnson-Gainesville, Jackson County, Eastside, Clarke Central, Apalachee and Walnut Grove.

“At this point I would say Clarke Central and Eastside are the two top teams but we aren’t taking anyone lightly,” Smith said. “You can’t do that when you were 3-7.”

The new head coach said his program is “process oriented.”

“I know it’s an old cliché but we are taking things one day at a time,” Smith said. “We aren’t looking very far ahead. We can only control what we do.”

With no spring practice due to COVID-19, Smith and his coaching staff have been behind on evaluating talent for the 2020 season. Most of the evaluation was from game footage from 2019.

“Spring is typically a key time for a new head coach,” Smith said. “Since we have been able to start practice and conditioning, we have been looking to identify the leaders of this team.”

Sophomore tailback Solomon Leslie will be looked upon for 2020 along with junior Avery Hamilton. Big things are expected from senior Tanner Greene along with junior Cooper Kennedy. In 2019, Kennedy was a backup quarterback but the new LHS coaching staff plans to use him all over the field this fall.

Senior Gabe Farmer is back to lead the team’s receivers along with Jackson Daniel, whose biggest opponent has been injuries in recent months.

“Depth is always going to be key,” Smith said. “That has been a key for teams everywhere I have coached. That’s why we are happy to see our numbers increasing. Injuries will always play a factor in football. Offensively, we have to have strong team chemistry. We also want a chemistry between our coaches and players. That is important to having success.”

As the countdown to the delayed season-opener against county rival Monroe Area approaches, Smith is not too busy to reflect on what has been presented to him.

“I know some of the applications for this job may have had better resumes than me and some certainly had more coaching wins,” Smith said. “However, I am going to do every thing in my power to make Loganville one of the best football programs in the state. I want to build from the top to the bottom and get everyone excited about Loganville High School.”

Part of that has come with a coaching staff Smith brags of often. Smith said the return of fellow LHS graduate Storm Johnson to coaching running backs has been very popular with players on the team.n

Chris Bridges is a columnist and former sports editor for The Walton Tribune.

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