Jeff Kaiser’s hire as the new Statesboro High head football coach has made waves here in Bulloch County and it’s got people talking all the way back in Tattnall County, from where Kaiser will be arriving.
First and foremost, the reaction in Tattnall County was seemingly sad from a social media standpoint. The minute the @SHPrepsports account tweeted out Kaiser had been hired, this is what came from Tattnall County High Schoolers:
—“Beside my mama and grandma, he was the best mentor I ever had... taught me a lot stuff especially to never give up... #ThanksCoachK” - @_Day2Timez
— “Gone miss this big fell he'll never know how much he meant to me! Goodluck on a new chapter!” - @cheifboyikk_14
— “dang statesboro is getting a good one. Coach Kaiser will always be a warrior and know it's #TattnallOnTop” - @KinggKaleb
— “Hate to see the big guy leave us” - @OronW
Sure, four tweets don’t represent the emotions of a county with 25,526 people but for his players to voice themselves in this manner says something about the impact Kaiser had on them.
Former players share the same sentiment. Former Statesboro and Auburn nose guard Josh Thompson was at Statesboro during Kaiser’s first run as an assistant and thinks Statesboro couldn’t have made a better choice for their head coach.
“Kaiser is like Buzz Busby, he’s a disciplinarian and he’ll bring intensity to the program,” Thompson said. “More importantly I know this has been his dream job for quite a while, so he cares a lot about what happens here.”
Michael Sumner, who as a tight end on those teams went against Kaiser’s defensive ends every day, says Kaiser is going to bring back what has been missing at Statesboro in this past three years.
“If you want someone who knows football, he’s your guy,” Sumner said. “He’s going to get the numbers back up to where they’re supposed to be and he will start holding those players accountable once again
However not all reactions have been positive. When the Herald posted the initial story on Facebook, one David Parham decided to comment “Bad hire” and then expand on it with this message:
“I hope I am wrong, but as a head coach his record is around 500 and Statesboro's program is down at present. I would have thought they would bring in a Head Coach with a proven winning record. Time will tell. I do wish him the best....Just thought we would see a big name coach take this program.”
Some of the disdain spilled over to Twitter as well, with reactions such as:
— “Idk how to feel about this” - @David_19_jr
— “”Time for a change.” - @AustinShane_02
The 62-55 career record is an easy point of criticism for many people, even knowing Tattnall’s short history and lack of real successful precedent before Kaiser’s arrival.
However former head coach Steve Pennington will be quick to remind those critics just how hard it can be to win in a largely rural county like Tattnall County.
Once upon a time Pennington was the head coach at Appling County High School, a county very similar by a demographic measure to Tattnall County. Appling County has around 34 people per square mile, while Tattnall has 46. Both small, and both present very real challenges according to Pennington.
“When you’re in those agricultural communities, you have to understand your kids are coming to you from far and wide,” Pennington said. “Many of them have other jobs, so you can’t implement a regular practice schedule like you would somewhere like Statesboro.”
Pennington was able to compile a 40-26-1 record at Appling from 1990 to 1995 and parlayed that into a 13 season run of averaging 8.3 wins a season. Considering the city of Statesboro itself has 1,812 people per square mile, Kaiser has an opportunity to parlay the same success as Pennington based on numbers alone.
Other coaches have shared optimism about what Kaiser can bring to Statesboro. Current Southeast Bulloch head coach Pat Collins was an assistant at Statesboro while Kaiser was wearing a Blue Devil uniform in the late eighties, and thinks Statesboro has an opportunity to take on the identity of their new coach.
“Jeff was always a fierce worker and competitor,” Collins said. “His Tattnall teams played us tough nosed the two years we saw them, and I believe they did that because he had molded those teams that way.”
Collins wasn’t the only one on that staff willing to comment. Former Statesboro football assistant/head baseball coach Kenny Tucker has fond memories as not only Jeff Kaiser the defensive lineman, but the catcher as well.
“He was a great leader for us on the baseball field,” Tucker said. “I have no doubt that translates into what he’s been able to do as a head coach.”
Kaiser, who was officially introduced at the Dec. 15 board meeting, has said the official transition process for the football program won’t take place until after Christmas. He officially starts as a part of the school’s faculty on Jan 2.