Lukas Moore --
Call me crazy, but I think the Bulldogs will be better this year under Nathan White
Today is the first time since 2007 a new voice will be commanding Athens Bulldog training camp. Longtime offensive coordinator Nathan White will be taking over for longtime head coach Ryan Adams. Change is coming for the defending TVC champs.
At first, it doesn’t seem like the best thing for Athens. For the last 12 seasons, Adams led the most successful era in the history of Athens football. Adams collected a 96-37 (.722) record, including a 52-10 (.836) record in the TVC-Ohio. Adams also owns the first-ever playoff win in Athens history, six conference championships, three 10-0 seasons, five playoff appearances, and of course a near brush with a state championship. After all that, It’s hard to think it can get better for Bulldog fans than the Adams era. Especially after the Bulldogs forced a running clock in every conference game last season. But, I think it does get better for the Green and Gold.
Nathan White was the absolute right hire for the Athens Bulldogs. White’s name had been associated with the head coaching position even before Adams retirement. His reputation as an offensive mastermind, combined with his demeanor, and clear ability to communicate a message to a football team, made him a clear cut replacement for Adams. I think White can not only continue what Adams built, but I think White can elevate Athens to another level.
The praise from former players and coaches is resounding when asked about White. Many cite his knowledge of the game and his strong bond with players as the main reasons he will make for an incredible replacement.
The bond is seen with Athens greats Joey Burrow, Ryan Luerhman, and Adam Luerhman. All three will be contributing players at Division 1 programs next season, with Burrow’s name being tossed around during Heisman conversations. Yet, all three made their way to R. Basil Rutter Field earlier this month to “work with” Coach White.
It also says something when the parent tweeting that image is a recently retired Division 1 coach. White has earned their trust and the trust of seemingly everyone around Athens football. Trust like that, from people as talented as that, isn’t earned without reason.
By the numbers, White may be the greatest offensive coordinator in the history of Ohio high school football. He has coached three All-State quarterbacks and was the mastermind behind three of the top 15 scoring offenses in Ohio history, including the highest scoring. Combined with the success of his players at the next level, no other coordinators resume comes close, at least not one I’ve seen.
White has also shown the ability to adjust his scheme for different types of players. When Burrow graduated, Athens had to shift scheme and strategy completely. What does his offense create? Zacciah Saltzman, who ran for over 2,100 yards and 37 touchdowns in 10 games.
If White can carry that attention to detail he put in his offenses to organizing the Bulldog program, Athens could elevate beyond what they’ve already accomplished.
Am I saying Ryan Adams did anything wrong? Of course not. Ryan Adams is an incredible coach who will be stitched into Athens lore and has placed Athens in this exact position to grow. But for more growth to happen, new ideas, a fresh perspective, and a new voice are necessary.
We were hearing many of these same positives about Rusty Richards when he was brought on to lead Nelsonville-York. His knowledge of the game and his connection to the players were his biggest strengths when he was the offensive coordinator at Trimble. Then he comes in and hands Nelsonville-York two TVC titles and an appearance in the state final four. Could White repeat those results? It’s a tough task, but the similarities are there, and White has the advantage of already being in the Athens system.
The transition for the Bulldogs will be barely noticeable from Adams to White, allowing for continuity in the weight-lifting program, and summer workouts. This will only help the development of key Athens players, including expected starting quarterback and speed-demon Joey Moore. In fact, Athens has already shown packages with Moore at quarterback, which included a 57 yard TD run. I expect White and Moore to work well together and allow Athens to remain dynamic on offense. Joey Burrow has already found time with the Athens quarterback.
In no world do I see Athens taking a downturn under Nathan White, I think the worst-case is keeping what Athens had. Winning the conference once every two or three years and making the playoffs on occasion. But the best-case for White is the Bulldogs forming into a true southeast Ohio power who can put their eyes on the state final four when it all goes right.
When asked to describe White in just three words Athens Athletic Director John Rogers said, “Passionate, intentional, and visionary.” Visionary is a strong word, and an appropriate one, White isn’t here to keep the status quo, he’s here to elevate the Athens program to even new heights.
Change is usually frightening for a team coming off a playoff appearance and TVC title, but Athens should be embracing their new hire with open arms and high expectations, because the White era, should be a lot of fun.