College football: Years of head coaching work in preparation for Bates’ Matt Coyne

LEWISTON – Matt Coyne has long dreamed of being a head coach.

“I played quarterback, so I’ve been a QB all my life,” Coyne said. “I always wanted to be a head coach.”

As soon as his football career ended, he set to work to achieve his goals by taking his first job as an assistant coach.

Matt Coyne spent 10 years working in the assistant ranks before becoming head football coach at Bates College earlier this year. He assembled a young coaching staff and said the Bobcats had a lot of talented returning players. Photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

He spent the next 10 years paying dues, changing schools, and changing jobs to gain more experience and knowledge. All that hard work paid off earlier this year when he was hired as head football coach at Bates College.

Coyne is the Bobcats’ third coach since Mark Harriman stepped down in early 2018 after leading the program for 20 years. Ed Argast served as interim coach last year after it was announced in July that Malik Hall would not return as the team’s head coach. Hall later filed a civil rights lawsuit accusing the school of racial discrimination during her three-year tenure.

Argast led Bates to a 3-6 record, the program’s first three-game winning season since 2016. The Bobcats haven’t had a winning season since 2012.

“These kids haven’t had the best experience,” Coyne said. “But they don’t realize how much they’ve grown as young men because of the experience.”

QB AT LEWISTON DEFENSE

Coyne played Wesleyan and, as a quarterback, led the Cardinals to a pair of wins over the Bobcats, including in 2010 when he ran for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left in a 27-20 victory. It was elected captain his last year,

After graduating in 2012, Coyne became the wide receivers coach for his alma mater, while simultaneously earning a master’s degree in social science.

Then, in 2015, Coyne joined the football staff at Oberlin College as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

Coyne returned to Wesleyan 2017, but in a radically different role: defensive coordinator. He moved to the other side of the ball with his goal of being a head coach in mind.

“The reason I went to different phases was to prepare for this position,” Coyne said, “so I could oversee our offensive coordinator and our defensive coordinator.”

“It’s been very beneficial for me to switch from attack to defense,” added Coyne. “It definitely prepared me to be an all-around coach.”

During his first season in charge of the Bobcats, Coyne said he would focus on special teams while also overseeing offensive and defensive purposes.

“I’m going to hang my hat this season on special teams,” Coyne said. “I think it has to be something that needs to be emphasized a bit more, because there were gaps there last year.”

“When you’re special teams coordinator“, added Coyne“You work with almost everyone in the team, not just in attack or defense.”

COMPLETE COACHING STAFF

One of Coyne’s first orders after being hired by Bates in February was to assemble a coaching staff.

“When I was first hired, there were a few priorities,” Coyne said. “One was getting the right staff together to be able to come in and steer the ship the right way, so we were able to bring in some great guys who coached all over the league (NESCAC) for a number of years.”

Coyne’s first call was to Mitchell Thompson, who last coached at Amherst.

“As you go through the coaching, you create your own little networking group,” Coyne said. “I coached with Coach Thompson at Oberlin College. He was my first call when I got the job, and he’s one of the best recruiters I know. He introduced us to our coaches from the O line and wide receivers.

Thompson is the Bobcats’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Owen Watrous is the offensive line coach and run play coordinator, and James Mayden is the wide receivers coach as well as the running game coordinator. passing game and social media coordinator.

Ryan Jirgl is the defensive coordinator. He will be joined on this side of the ball by a pair of familiar faces, Alphonso Belnavis, a native of Auburn, a graduate of Edward Little High School and assistant to Bates in 2019, and Tom Radulski, who joined the Bobcats last year. after a headed program at Hebron Academy.

“Quite frankly, he’s got more experience than the rest of us put together,” Coyne said. “A lot of people have contacted me saying he was a great coach and a great person.”

After playing at the University of New Hampshire, Radulski, 66, began coaching in 1980 and during his career served as head coach at UMass Lowell (1993-95) and Sacred Heart (1997-99). He also has experience in NESCAC, serving as defensive coordinator at Hamilton (1984), Colby (1985) and Bowdoin (2000-10).

Apart from Radulski, the average age of coaches is 31. Coyne hopes this will help players relate to the staff.

“We have a younger staff, and I did that on purpose,” Coyne said. “For me it’s about relationships with the players – understanding what they’re going through and how to motivate them. That’s what the coaches I’ve had have done for me. And that’s how you start the foundation of a culture Culture is everything.

GAME PLAN

Last year, the Bobcats ran the ball the second-fewest times in NESCAC, but threw it the second-most.

Coyne plans to change that.

“It’s going to be a balanced attack, throwing and running the ball,” Coyne said. “You have to direct the ball in this league in order to control the game.”

“Big teams run the ball,” Coyne added. “When you have the lead and you’re in a position to win, you have to be able to run the game. It makes games shorter. At all levels, winning teams run the game.

Defensively, Bates will force peripheral players, not stars, to beat them.

“If they want to beat us, let them beat us with their 3 or 4 options, not their 1 or 2 options,” Coyne said. “There’s a difference between getting beat and losing a game.”

Coyne’s top priority, however, will be figuring out how to put the Bobcats’ best players in position to succeed.

“(My strategy is) to analyze the attributes of your best players and figure out how to put them in those positions as many times as possible,” Coyne said.

Coyne said the Bobcats have a lot of talent among the 54 players returning from last year’s team that finished tied for seventh in the 10-team NESCAC.

“We have talented players,” Coyne said. “The lack of talent is not as extreme as some might think.”


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