The most difficult situation imaginable for a first-year coach is to replace someone who was not only successful, but who left you an empty cupboard. You have a tough act to follow, but nothing to follow it with.
In that regard, new Clyde coach Scott Campbell can count himself among the fortunate — the very fortunate.
Campbell, who replaced the highly successful Rocky Smart following his resignation in the spring, has ample weapons at his disposal to make a splash in his Clyde debut.
Inheriting a team that finished 6-5 a year ago, Campbell gets the vast majority of that talent back, including a huge junior class of 18 players that saw significant varsity time as sophomores.
A running joke about Clyde’s 2017 varsity team was that it was “the best JV in the Big Country,” due to the heavy influence of sophomores it had. Yet the youthful Bulldogs still earned a playoff spot — a major red flag for the opposition.
Clyde should not only be better this year, but is unlikely to peak until 2019.
“Any time a coach applies at a school, you try to do as much research as possible about the community, the school district and administration,” said Campbell, who arrives from Luling with a 13-19 career record in three seasons. “But one of those things you identify and look at is what they have coming back.
“You try to identify all these aspects of your program, and when I started to look at Clyde — identifying kids like Payton Burton and a strong junior class — (I got excited).”
This, of course, puts Campbell in a position to implement his system a full year before the current Bulldogs roster (at least on paper) hits its high point.
The direction will be slightly altered, with Clyde playing at a slower tempo than it did under Smart. The Bulldogs will still spread the field to some degree, but will change gears more often than seen recently.
Under Smart’s rapid-fire air raid attack, the Bulldogs saw postseason play in five of six seasons, with records of 5-5, 8-4, 5-6, 8-3, 9-2 and 6-5. Under Campbell, Clyde will seek to keep its defense off the field a bit more.
“In the past, they tried to snap the ball as much as they could and play at a fast-break speed,” Campbell said. “We’re going to be a little bit slower in our tempo. Scheme-wise, we’ll probably end up running the ball a little bit more than what we’ve done in the past.
“If we can have a little more of a ball-control offense, then we think that will benefit us defensively as well. Defensively, we’ll keep our same 3-4 scheme and all of our defensive staff is intact, so I feel really confident about the defensive side.”
Most coaches who prefer a slower tempo have a defensive background, and Campbell is no exception.
Whether his style change will continue Clyde’s momentum or improve it, only time will tell. But with a junior-dominated roster, time is an advantage firmly in his corner.
“I started my career on the defensive side of the ball,” Campbell said. “My father was a long-time coach and he was always on the defensive side of the ball, so when we’d talk football, we’d always seem to go back to the offensive style of play and how it can help your defense.”
Campbell did his homework prior to applying at Clyde. Few stones, if any, were left unturned, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises.
“To say that Coach Smart left the program in a very strong state would be a very accurate statement,” Campbell said. “I just want to carry that torch and see if we can’t push the ball a little further.”