A new head coach at the helm of a program means new routines and new habits.
For Jeff Hunnicutt — announced as Model’s head football coach in early April — the process of getting the Blue Devils to get accustomed with his way of doing things and the expectations he has for the team led to some tough days during spring practice.
“It’s going a little slower than I’d like, if I’m being honest,” Hunnicutt said with a smile after Tuesday’s practice. “But, I have to remind myself that this is a learning curve. All the verbiage is different for these kids and we’re grasping it. Today was a good day of practice and I’m leaving with a smile on my face, but to say I’m satisfied would be far from the truth.”
After finishing 2-8 last season and 1-9 the year before, the Blue Devils are far from satisfied as well. Back-to-back losing seasons after a five-year stretch of making the state playoffs can have that effect.
Hunnicutt says he saw an enthusiastic squad show up on the first day of spring ball, and that has carried over into a desire to learn and get accustomed to their new coach.
“I think from day one we set that tone early about how we’re going to be relentless and show relentless effort towards the football,” Hunnicutt said. “I left day one smiling, and I was very pleased with the way we got after it.”
Hunnicutt is Model’s third head coach in three years, and the limited time they have had with the team on the practice field in May has been critical in setting the tone he and his staff want to maintain.
“I think the guys are getting accustomed to me and my way of coaching,” Hunnicutt said. “I’m very big on discipline, but from that I’m also going to put my arm around them and love them as well. We’re going to have a good time, but there’s also a learning period that’s got to take place.”
The first stage of that learning period wrapped up Thursday when Model held an intrasquad scrimmage to end its spring.
Along with the impending changes in scheme and vocabulary, Model will also have to face the graduations of key contributors like Kwalic Dublin, Kidron Ford, and Ty Brock, among others.
It helps that second-team All-Area selection Drew Tanner will be back to head up what should be an imposing defense, with honorable mention All-Area picks Tyler Gamble and Shaud Askew manning the front seven and rising junior Jahari Merritt returning to the secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball, rising senior Jabari Burge will have fellow returner Cole Couey to throw the ball to.
But it’s a long way to August, and Hunnicutt is less focused on personnel changes and more passionate about the culture change he wants to implement.
“We’re going to work hard and have fun at the same time,” Hunnicutt said. “You’ve got to have fun, and if you’re not having fun doing this then you’re in the wrong business”