The Richmond Register

August 16, 2013

OVC FOOTBALL: Stability a trademark of EKU coaching staff

By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor

RICHMOND — In the past few years, the Eastern Kentucky University football coaching staff has undergone very little change.

The core members of the staff have remained remarkably intact since Dean Hood took over the tradition-rich program in 2008.

And that’s certainly a rarity these days in college football.

“That’s a blessing,” Hood said of the stability of his coaching staff. “We have really good coaches and they have stayed. In FCS football is a volatile deal. Guys move around a lot.”

This season, EKU brings back its entire staff, including both of its graduate assistants and the director of football operations.

Most of the top assistant have been with the school for most of Hood’s tenure.

The longest-tenured coach on the staff is running backs coach John Revere. The former EKU player has coached at his alma mater since 1997, when he was hired by Hall of Fame Coach Roy Kidd.

During that time, Revere has coached both running backs and wide receivers.

Dane Damron is set to begin his third season as offensive coordinator and fifth year overall on the staff — he served as the special teams coach in 2009 and 2010.

Tony Hatmaker has been at EKU as a defensive backs coach since 2008 and has also been the defensive coordinator since 2011.

Jake Johnson is in his ninth season as defensive line coach, while Carson Jeffers (offensive line) and Gary Fisher (linebackers) are both in their fifth seasons as position coaches for the Colonels.

Ben Hodges has been on the EKU staff for eight seasons and is heading into his third season as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.

Klay Koester is set to begin his third season as wide receivers coach and Kevin Cristello has served as the team’s director of football operations since 2011.

Strength coach Jon-Michael Davis has also been with the staff since the first year of the post Kid-era (2003).

Hood credits the stability of the coaching staff as a big part of the team’s success.

Since 2008, the Colonels are 29-10 against OVC competition (tied for the best overall conference mark with Jacksonville State), have won two conference titles and have not finished lower than second place in the regular-season standings.

“It’s huge when everyone is on the same page,” Hood said. “Everyone knows we have a way of doing things, and this is how we do it. We don’t have to waste time explaining thing. You just jump on out here and rock and roll.”

Both the Colonels graduate assistants are back for a second-straight season.

Chris Cunningham played at EKU from 2008 to 2010, but injuries ended his career prior to his junior season.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sports management in 2012 and served as the team’s defensive graduate assistant last season.

“He helped as a student-coach, then we hired him as a GA,” Hood said of Cunningham said. “He’s been with us pretty much the whole time our staff has been here.”

Brad Queen returns as the team’s offensive graduate assistant.

“He’s got some familiarity with some of our coaches,” Hood said of Queen.