From Ray Crump to Chad Cochran to now Jason Howard, Van Akin and the older Indians players have seen three head coaches.
So going from tight end to offensive guard to tailback in less than a year? That’s just life on The Creek for players such as Van Akin.
“We’ll be all right,” he said.
But rolling with constant change is never easy, and that will be the challenge in Howard’s first season as his alma mater’s head coach.
Howard knows it as well as anyone. He went through three basketball coaches during his days as a three-sport athlete at Ohatchee.
“By my senior year, we had no direction,” said Howard, who came to Ohatchee after leading Spring Garden to its most successful run in football. “We went through all three, and all three had different philosophies. We really hadn’t grown up in a system or anything.”
The same holds true for Ohatchee’s most veteran players. They ran some spread offense under Crump and Cochran, but Cochran switched to the option.
In comes Howard, who runs a hybrid wing-T as his base offense.
“When kids are familiar with a system, they have something to fall back on,” Howard said. “That’s what they don’t have here.”
It means position changes for players such as Van Akin, who moved to guard during spring practice. He’s since moved to tailback, a position he played earlier in his football career, because of an offseason shoulder injury to Caleb Vice.
Zach Mitchell has moved from quarterback to running back.
Brady Kelly, the Indians’ lone returning starter on the offensive line, has moved from center to guard.
Riley Curvin moved from running back to wing back/wide receiver.
“We’ve tried to keep some things that they’re used to,” Howard said. “Defensively, we’ve kept a base package that they’re used to. We’re going to keep that base defense.
“We’re just not going to stunt out of it as much. We’re going to try to be more sound in just our base.”
Howard had a spring practice and 7-on-7 camp with his new team — which helped the transition — but the Indians have had to adjust to more than new Xs and Os.
A new coach means a new approach to offseason programs and discipline.
“One of the big things is we’re trying to place some accountability on these kids,” Howard said. “You’ve got to be here. If you’re not here, you’re going to be punished for it. You’re going to have run.
“Getting stronger in the summer is part of getting better in the fall, and that’s been one of the hard things is just that accountability part.”
Howard said the Indians have adjusted well, and circumstances help. Ohatchee hasn’t made the playoffs since 2003 and finished 1-9 in 2009.
A team hungry to win buys in.
Howard also allowed for some continuity by retaining Glenn Toney — the former Saks head coach — and son Randall Toney from Cochran’s staff.
There’s also a lot of new blood in the program. The Indians got down to 17 varsity players in 2009, and they had 36 headed into fall camp.
There’s new blood on the staff, as well. Howard hired former Weaver standout David Beegle and ex-Alexandria star Will Ginn, son of the late coaching great Larry Ginn.
As for Howard, he’s the kind of new blood that gets the blood flowing.
“He gets you more fired up than any coach I’ve ever had,” Van Akin said. “He’s hyped up about everything.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 235-3576.