SU Football Notebook: McCullough takes over as Hornets new defensive coordinator
WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University head football coach Scott Yoder served as his own defensive coordinator during his first four seasons with the Hornets. He decided heading into Year 5 that SU would be best served if he handed the reins of the defense back to Brock McCullough.
McCullough, who had coached the offensive line since Yoder took over in 2013, was appointed Shenandoah’s new defensive coordinator this offseason. McCullough, now in his 11th season with SU and 10th as a full-time coach, served in that same capacity with the Hornets from 2008-12 under former head coach Paul Barnes.
Yoder, speaking at Shenandoah’s media day Sunday morning, said the staff shakeup was one he’d been contemplating “for a while.”
“Brock’s coordinated before. He’s a good coach. I wanted him to have more of an impact on the outcome of the game,” said Yoder, adding that he felt this season was the right time to make such a change.
“I was struggling to be the best head coach that I could be and call the plays defensively. And that’s what made the decision. It was easy, it was comfortable for me because I trust Brock. I know he’s done it before and I know he knows the league well. Him and (defensive line coach Kalvin Oliver) have worked together before. It’s been great. We looked at it in the spring. Time will tell but it was the right move. Obviously hindsight will be 20-20. If we have a great year people will think that had a big part to do with it, but it was the right move, for sure.”
McCullough, who said he had 16 spring practices to become reacquainted with his new role before starting preseason camp on Aug. 9, has added his own flavor to a Hornets defense that ranked fifth in the eight-team Old Dominion Athletic Conference in points allowed (29.5 per game), sixth in yards allowed (435.1 per game) and tied for the most takeaways (24) in 2016.
Citing his strong relationship with Oliver, who is entering his 14th season as an assistant coach at his alma mater, and defensive backs coach Drake Woodard, McCullough said the coaching trio has decided to be “super multiple” on defense this season.
“We’re gonna line up in over a dozen different defensive fronts,” said McCullough, who brings back four defensive starters from a season ago. “We have over 30 coverages that we’ve installed. I think we’re in the 20s as far as the numbers of different pressures, blitzes that we’re bringing. So being very multiple. (Against) the modern offense, you always wanna be attacking.”
Yoder has resumed McCullough’s previous role as offensive line coach.
JUST A ‘TICK’ OFF: Shenandoah returns nine starters on an offense that led the ODAC in points per game (35.2) last season, and Yoder said Sunday he anticipates that unit will be even better in 2017. But the head coach added that the Hornets have looked slightly out of sync through the first two weeks of preseason camp.
“We’ve been off a little bit in camp, I’ll be honest with you guys,” Yoder said. “Offensively right now we’re just a tick off. … I’m really hoping as a coach it’s camp, you’ve got tired legs, you’ve got guys that are injured, you’ve got different guys playing together all the time. I’m hoping that is a big part of what we are right now.”
Yoder added that junior quarterback Hayden Bauserman, a first team All-ODAC pick last season, and a veteran receiving corps have “looked good” in practice so far but that the timing is just a “step off.”
“I’m hoping that comes in the next 10 days,” Yoder said. “Certainly the scrimmage against Gettysburg (on Friday) will show, but we’ve gotta ramp it up.”
KICKING BATTLE: Kicker Jacob Newton is healthy after being limited for most of the last two seasons by a knee injury, Yoder said, but the senior still has more work to do in order to reclaim the starting job he thrived in as a freshman in 2014.
Yoder said Newton remains in a competition with freshman Hunter Youngblood for that spot, adding that he didn’t know on Sunday who would kick for the Hornets in the season opener against Gallaudet on Sept. 2.
“Our kicking game, I would say, is about a C right now as far as kicking field goals and extra points,” Yoder said. “We need to spend a lot of time on that in the next few weeks.”
Yoder added that Shenandoah has ranked last in the ODAC in PATs over the last two seasons (the Hornets were 77-for-89, 86.5 percent, on extra points during that span), prompting the coaches to consider attempting more 2-point conversions this season.