With a new head coach comes a brand new staff, and for Statesboro’s football team this was no different.
Head coach Jeff Kaiser made it known when he was hired in December that there would be new faces on his staff to go along with the other coaches he’d retain from Steve Pennington’s outgoing staff. He wanted to make sure he brought in a staff with experience first and foremost, and he got that in bunches with the new hires.
The biggest three names new to the staff were former Portal head coach David Nesmith, former Bradwell Institute head coach Greg Hill and former Effingham County head coach Jack Webb. With four former head coaches on staff, Kaiser believes he’s brought the right mix to a program that’s desperate to get back into the playoff picture.
“We not only have four former head coaches, but there are six state championship appearances between these coaches we have on staff,” Kaiser said. “All three of them have something different they bring to the table.”
When asked what was he used as a barometer for three of his new hires, Kaiser said first and foremost was experience in the weightroom. That should come as no surprise considering Kaiser is quoted as saying the weight room is “his baby” and has made strength & conditioning the number one priority since his arrival in Statesboro.
In steps Nesmith, who was the head coach at Portal the last time the Panthers had a winning record. In 2011 he helped guide Portal to a 6-4 record, which included an upset of rival ECI who was ranked No. 3 in class A by the AJC at the time. A former Statesboro man himself, Kaiser brought in Nesmith to help coordinate the offensive line and help be a presence in the weightroom.
“When Statesboro High School was the strongest team in the state regardless of classification, David Nesmith was a big reason for that,” Kaiser said. “We want to get back to that level of strength, and I think coach Nesmith is as good as there is in the state of Georgia.”
Nesmith isn’t just a presence in the weightroom though, as previously mentioned he’s also a seasoned offensive line coach. Justin Griffith, the assistant offensive line coach who was retained from the 2016 team, is looking forward to getting to learn from Nesmith this season. Griffith worked with Nesmith as a college student for a spring and now will get to reunite with his former mentor as a fellow assistant.
“It’s an honor to get to learn from someone as experienced as coach Nesmith,” Griffith said. “I got know him back when I was a student and I learned a lot from him in that short amount of time.”
Alongside Nesmith on offense will be Hill, knows to most Statesboro residents as a national championship quarterback rather than an assistant high school football coach. Hill helped guide Georgia Southern to two FCS National Championships in 1998 and 1999 — winning the latter against Youngstown State 59-24. While that championship was won well before a majority of the kids on the team were born, there’s no doubt they’ve heard from their parents and grandparents the lore of 1999 with Hill leading the charge alongside GS legend Adrian Peterson.
“We’re hoping a guy with his level of notoriety can help pull some of those kids out of the halls and onto this field,” Kaiser said. “He’s a well known guy here in Statesboro and is someone who can come in to immediately help our quarterbacks and running backs.”
While Kaiser had stated he will be in charge of calling all the offensive plays on Friday night, Hill will have a big hand in helping mold a very talented backfield with quarterback Davis Wiggins and running back Tupac Lanier.
However calling defensive plays on the other end will be Webb, the former one-year Statesboro head coach who has become a high school football staple in the southeast area. Webb was most recently the defensive coordinator at Southeast Bulloch, who intended to retire from his post as athletic director and DC in Brooklet.
However in steps Kaiser, one of Webb’s former players back in 1990 when he was an assistant under his brother Charles — who was head coach from 1990-1995, 1997-1998. Kaiser has a great admiration for Webb, who admits the Statesboro alum is a practical “living legend” around Bulloch County.
“Coach Webb is one of my favorite coaches of all time. I’ve worked with him before on previous staffs here at Statesboro,” Kaiser said. “Football is his passion, as it is with the other guys we brought on. I want to surround my kids with passion, hoping it will rub off on them.”
Almost by accident, Kaiser’s main three hires have all been at Statesboro before. They’ve all crossed paths together at some point with other staffers like Griffin and Bradley Ward — who was also retained after serving as the offensive coordinator under Pennington in 2016. Ward said there’s been no “getting to know each other” phase between the coaches on staff and getting together has been like clockwork.
“We’ve all known and worked with each other before, and it’s helped us on the field here in practice,” Ward said. “It’s been great getting back together with guys like Hill and Nesmith again.”
With the proverbial band back together, Statesboro is now equipped with an experienced staff to start their program reboot. There aren’t a lot of certainties at Statesboro now, but the one thing they’ll be able to count on is a coaching staff that’s been there and done that.