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Position Breakdown: Coaching Staff

As we near the start of the 2022 football season, the Warren County Sports Authority will be breaking down the Pioneer football roster. We will be dividing our previews by positions, including stories on quarterbacks, running backs/wings, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, special teams and the coaching staff.

Make sure to keep track on the WCSA as we give you the best details on the Pioneers before they kick off the season Friday, Aug. 19 at DeKalb County.

The faces are all familiar. Coach Matt Turner has preached consistency since taking over the Pioneer program and it has started with his coaching staff, which is largely unchanged in his tenure.

Warren County will start its fourth year under Turner with the same coordinators in back-to-back years for the first time, as Donnie Harris returns as offensive coordinator and Camron Bond continues to serve as defensive coordinator. The duo has been Turner’s coordinators in three of his four seasons (with the lone change coming in 2020 when Kenny Shultz took over the offense for one year).

Turner also has a number of guys back on the sidelines for fourth ride as Isaac Slatton continues to coach up the trenches and Alan Perkins works with the running backs. Cody Crouch is also back as the team’s strength and conditioning coach, a post he’s held under Turner the last three years.

The coaching staff also has Preston Smith, Bryson Cope and Dillon Haley floating in as helpers this year, giving the Pioneers even more past players to help out and guide Squad 54.

Here’s a 3-2-1 breakdown of the Pioneer coaching staff

Three questions

Can consistency on sidelines translate to field?

Coach Turner has unlimited trust in his coordinators, knowing Harris and Bond have an in-depth understanding of Turner’s philosophies and can anticipate his changes before he even asks. That mind meld helps the trio relay information through the headphones quickly, but it remains to be seen if it makes Warren County play faster and efficient on Fridays.

There have been some struggles in getting everything flowing during the preseason, with the offense having its worst performance last week in Sequatchie County. Defensively, the Pioneers have been hit-or-miss, picking up some impressive three-and-outs against Tullahoma but allowing three different opponents to sustain long drives.

Will the team be able to manage depth?

Substitution management is something the Pioneers rarely put much time into during the season. With the team traditionally having starters going both ways, it was rare to see players shuffling in and out of the game in waves.

By virtue of building the roster for four years, the Pioneers have established a bit of depth this year, particularly across the front line. Coach Turner will need his staff to keep the players fresh and rotating throughout the game while also keeping the coordinators aware of the personnel changing.

Are there wrinkles on the way?

Having coaches returning year after year gives the Pioneers the ability to teach and maintain a system, but it also means other teams are going to start picking up tendencies as well. The Pioneer offense, when at its best, can thrive even when the opposing team knows what is coming, but it never hurts to keep other teams guessing.

Likewise, coach Bond has always worked to tweak his coverages to keep passers guessing. He’s also a creative blitzer, something the Pioneers will need to do effectively this year to disrupt quarterbacks and create havoc in the backfield.

Two observations

Installation is done; execution is TBD

Turner and his coordinators all agreed on one thing this fall – they’ve never been able to get in their base offenses and defenses quicker. Having an abundance of seniors who have been running the systems since they were freshmen allowed Warren County to move through its playbook at warp speed this fall, even adding some packages that were shelved for previous rosters.

Knowing what the calls are don’t seem to be a problem for the Pioneers. Executing it correctly, with all 11 players moving in unison, has still been an issue in the preseason. Warren County has cleaned up some technical things week-to-week during scrimmages, but Friday is when the lights will be the brightest on Squad 54.

Iron Man coaches for Iron Man players

Coach Turner might as well crank some Black Sabbath every time his team and coaches leave the locker room. Iron Man is a perfect theme song for Squad 54, because the Pioneers embrace the philosophy of having guys doing everything, every day.

There will be players who have to play almost every snap on each side of the ball most games this fall and their coaches show the same versatility. There may be positions where a few coaches specialize at on one side of the ball (while the coordinators oversee), but they don’t stop coaching on the other side. It’s grunt work for the coaching staff, which works together to develop game plans on both sides of the ball.

Simmons Says – One prediction

It’s hard to really put a prediction out there for the coaches, aside from just guessing at a win total. I’ve never been a fan of doing that, so I’ll refrain (I’m setting the O/U for wins at 4.5, however). Instead, I’ll give some extra analysis about the guys who surround coach Turner.

From Day 1 when Turner took the job, there has been a clear focus on the Pioneer Way. To keep that in the forefront, Turner has surrounded himself with guys who were once Pioneers themselves and have plenty of pride about putting on that helmet and going to work. His coaching staff has gained a few and lost a few over the years, but one common theme is guys who serve on his staff all love Warren County football.

Nothing is easy about coaching in Warren County (in any sport). There are hardships coaches face every single day that go completely unnoticed by the community and the adoring fans. If some spent a day in the life of Turner or his coaching staff, they may be a little bit leery of hurling hatred from the stands when something inevitably goes wrong this fall (and trust me, the coaches will hear about it when it does).

I don’t have the will power those guys do or else I’d roll up my sleeves and go to work with them. None of them are perfect coaches – coach Turner likes to talk about how his staff is a bunch of mechanics and farmers who love football – but they put in so much time and effort to try to make things perfect for the Pioneers. They have been working tirelessly to try to change the stigma around the program, one that used to have a hard time attracting 30 players but now boasts over 100 kids suiting up (on various levels – varsity, JV and freshmen). Coach Turner and his guys are dogged in preparing their kids for Friday night battles and the challenges they’ll face long after they leave the field.

One of the proudest moments for Turner this fall was when another media outlet came in to do some reporting and talked to his kids. When they were done with interviews, Turner asked how his kids did. It put a smile on his face to know his young men walked into the room, looked their interviewer in the eye, shook their hands and answered their questions with a “yes sir, no sir,” approach.

People may not care that Turner routinely goes around his locker room to teach his kids how to shake hands or takes them out and guides them on some of the finer points of mechanic work (like changing tires or checking the oil), but I do. It tells me that Turner takes every kid who puts on a Warren County uniform and makes them his own family.

That family may win 10 games this year or it may win one. Either way, I know coach Turner will be embracing these guys long after their careers are over, whether it’s in two months, two years or two decades. I talk to him all the time and you can’t imagine how often our conversations steer immediately away from the game and about what guys from his first team, Squad 51, are doing now or how a former player’s car is running after he got a tune-up from Turner’s pit crew.

Turner and his staff were hired to change the program’s long lineage of losing. They’ve transcended past that goal (after accomplishing it in under 18 months) and started graduating good young men by the dozens every year. They’ll do it again in nine months, regardless of how the next two months go on the gridiron.

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