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Hatcher introduced as GSU coach; embraces program's traditions
011907 GSU HATCHER 1
Chris Hatcher was introduced Friday at the Bishop Field House as Georgia Southern's new head football coach. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Hatcher pt 3

Chris Hatcher, Part 3

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Hatcher Pt. 2

Chris Hatcher, Part 2

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Hatcher Pt. 1

Chris Hatcher interview, Part 1

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    The Hatch Attack has arrived.
    And on Friday morning, Georgia Southern fans crowded into the Bishop Field House to warmly welcome its arrival as Chris Hatcher was officially introduced as the new head football coach.
    Hatcher, who began his first day on the job by reaching out to the community, comes to Statesboro via his alma mater, Valdosta State University, where he was 76-12 and won a 2004 Division II national title.
    His day started with an early breakfast at the popular Statesboro restaurant Snooky’s where he shook hands with every person in the building. Before noon, he drew rousing ovations during the press conference as he shared his plans to reinstitute several traditions that were a cornerstone of the Division I-AA powerhouse prior to the 2006 season.
    “When I came to Statesboro last night I wanted to make sure I embraced all the traditions and the lore that go along with Georgia Southern,” he said. “Sometime this weekend I’m going to get my staff together and talk to a few folks — we’ve got to find the right spot there at Beautiful Eagle Creek to draw that first jug of water when we take the road next season for that first road game. This is a tremendously proud program, and it’s a great pleasure to be asked to lead it.”
    Hatcher, 33, inherits a 3-8 team coming off of its worst season in modern history, but Georgia Southern’s sixth full-time head coach encouraged fans the future was bright.
    “I hope, and I plan, and we will add to the six championship banners, the 16 playoff appearances and the eight Southern Conference champions,” Hatcher said. “And make no mistake, we will do that early. We will be an exciting football team to watch.”
    Hatcher replaces Brian VanGorder, who was with the Eagles for one season before bolting for an assistant job with the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon Georgia Southern was in Valdosta interviewing Hatcher, who accepted the job later that night.
    “It’s a touchdown,” GSU president Dr. Bruce Grube said of the hire. “The thing I like about him is he’s down to earth. What you see is what you get. He will relate extremely well to our community, and he’ll take care of those players — that’s the important thing. Then he’ll do what Georgia Southern and all the community really wants, and that’s to win a lot of football games for us. We are very, very pleased. He is a classy young man.”
    Offensively, Hatcher plans to run a spread option attack similar to that of West Virginia, Troy and Texas Tech. On defense, the team will have one goal — “Don’t let them score,” Hatcher said. “Our base philosophy there is to run fast and tackle hard. It’s a very simple game.”
    GSU’s new coach said he embraces the expectations of a program that’s won more Division I-AA national titles than any team in the nation.
    “I’m very well aware that you are expected to win, and that’s one reason I wanted to come to Georgia Southern,” he said. “We are going to do this together, and I promise I am a very open person. I can’t wait for the opportunity to meet, greet and get to know everyone associated with Georgia Southern athletics. It’s a new era of football at Georgia Southern.”
    Hatcher spoke candidly, which those in attendance noted and appreciated.
    “He seems very personable, and he knows what he wants to do,” GSU student Josh Primm said. “I was impressed that he appreciates what he has coming in with the facilities and things like that. He doesn't have to change anything to win.”
    Booster Tommy Callaway agreed.
    “His southern charm is going to blend in really well with our southern hospitality here,” he said. “He made a very good first impression. It’s going to be fun and interesting to see how things progress. I am more excited about this hire than I was the last one. He was a steal.”
    Hatcher has already assembled part of his staff, which will include three of his assistants from Valdosta State — assistant head coach/offensive line coach Shawn Bostick, defensive coordinator Ashley Anders and secondary coach/recruiting coordinator Keith Hatcher. He met with the majority of the remaining members of GSU’s former staff Friday, but hasn’t settled on any other assistants. Over the weekend, Hatcher plans to evaluate the current players and decide what direction to take with recruiting. With National Signing Day slated for Feb.7, he plans to work as quickly as possible.
    Valdosta’s players said they would miss Hatcher and spoke highly of their former leader.
    “He is an unbelievable person, a great coach and a fiery guy,” said Davis “Rooster” Russell, a senior center at VSU and grandson of the late GSU coaching icon Erk Russell. “He expects to win, and he instills that in his players. He makes us believe we are going to win when we take the field.”
    Russell added that his relatives were thrilled with the hire.
    “Speaking on behalf of my family, we are all very excited he took the job,” he said. “Erk is one of his heroes, and he models himself after him. He's a great coach — ya’ll will find that out shortly.”
    Eagle athletic director Sam Baker felt Hatcher was a good fit for the program.
    “We needed to get someone who would enjoy coaching at Georgia Southern and who our fans would enjoy having coach at Georgia Southern,” he said. “He’s easy with people, the kids love playing for him, he’s dedicated, he’s got a great offensive mind and we’ll enjoy having him — that was important to me.”
    Southern Boosters president John Mulherin was glad to see fans welcome Hatcher so warmly.
    “A lot of folks are excited about Chris coming here,” he said. “I think Chris certainly is going to play well with our fan base. We look forward to helping him win some games.”
    Said booster Laney Claxton: “We are very pleased to welcome Coach Hatcher to Statesboro. I think he is going to do a fantastic job for us. We are looking forward to have the chance to get to know him and see what he envisions doing with our program. We can’t wait for the spring game.”
    Hatcher was joined at the press conference by his family, including his father — a high school football coach — mother, wife and young son, who was clad in a navy Georgia Southern sweatshirt.
    His base salary is $200,000 — the same as VanGorder’s — and will be supplemented by other benefits, Baker said.
    “We felt like we had a good coach, especially with Rice talking to him, and I didn’t want to lose him over monetary issues,” Baker said.
    As for the abandoned traditions, Hatcher said the team would once again arrive at home games via yellow school buses, a trend started by Erk Russell.
    “As long as those old buses are operational, we’ll use them,” he said. “We’ll load up two buses and the Hatch Attack will come down that road to play West Georgia on Sept. 8.”
    Luke Martin contributed to this story.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.