3 Questions: Grand Haven Football

Josh VanDyke • Aug 10, 2017 at 2:30 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — First-year Grand Haven head football coach Joe Nelson took some time after his first official practice with the Buccaneers to answer a few questions facing the team as they prepare for their fourth coaching staff in four seasons.

How has the new role affected Nelson as a coach?

After being an assistant for the Buccaneers for 17 seasons, Nelson finally takes the reins of the Grand Haven program. Being the leader of a program has put a lot on Nelson’s plate, but the coaching staff he has brought in has helped put him at ease so far this fall.

Nelson: “I felt prepared coming into our first official practice, mostly due to the guys that I’m working with on our staff. There are a lot of detail-oriented things in how a practice is run and how plays are installed that you have to stay on top of as a head coach.

“I feel good about the group of guys that I have out here coaching our kids. That makes things run a lot smoother and makes me a lot less anxious about how things are going. If I wasn’t sure about the staff I brought in, that would make the transition a lot more challenging, but I know most of these guys and that has made things so much easier for me and the kids.”

How will the team replace their experienced playmakers?

The Buccaneers lost a slew of experienced seniors such as running back Joey Zelenka, quarterback Logan Taylor, wideout Brady Jonas, linebacker Drake Morley and defensive end Ross Koella. The team may be forced to start some underclassmen at key positions due to the way the program was structured last fall.

Nelson: “We lost some big-time seniors from last year’s team, and we didn’t have a junior varsity team last year, either. That’s not a good combination. I really feel like we have a chance to be better, though. The guys up front are getting off the ball faster and better than they ever have, we’ve got skill-position players that are making plays, and we’ve got new kids out here that are looking like they could be key factors for us right away.

“We just have to stay healthy. The numbers are improved from last year, but they still aren’t where we want them to be just yet. Our depth is going to be an issue, but we like the talent that we have in the two-deep.

“Malic (Love) and Charlie (Young) are the frontrunners at running back. Ryan Mattson, Nate Perez and Brandon Diaz are also in that mix. We’ve got a really good group of backs. They are all good athletes and they all play a different role for us. We’ve got the pieces we need to put together a solid offensive unit.

“Adam Nelson, Chris LaCour and Collin Takas are all battling for the starting role at quarterback. I try and stay out of the decision-making process for that position since Adam is my son.

“We’ve also moved kids around mid-practice to get different looks at positions, and we have a few kids learning multiple positions to give us some flexibility at certain positions due to our lack of depth.

“We’re going to put the best 11 kids out on the field that we believe gives us the best opportunity for success. We just need to shuffle some kids around in order to do that, so we’re trying to figure out substitution packages and other roles work best for particular kids.”

What changes will the team see in offensive and defensive philosophy?

The Grand Haven program has seen a lot of changes in its offensive and defensive schemes over the last five seasons. From the pass-happy spread offense to a more traditional wing-T run game last fall, Nelson believes any more changes could be detrimental to the team’s success.

Nelson: “We aren’t going to change things a ton from what we did last year, but we are going to change how we do it, and how the coaches are teaching it. We are going to play to our strengths and do what we can do, and do it well. If we can’t do something well, we aren’t going to do it. There’s no sense in trying to change your entire philosophy if you aren’t suited for it.

“We believe we’ll have a strong offensive and defensive line, with plenty of playmakers behind them on both sides of the ball. We just have to execute better than we did last year, and we’re hoping we can do that if we put our kids in a position to succeed.”

The Buccaneers will host Portage Northern on Aug. 17 at 9 a.m. for a scrimmage, before opening their season against Reeths-Puffer on Aug. 24 at Gene Rothi Field at 7 p.m.

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