I took first-year Eastside head coach Troy Hoff and his eight year old son to lunch at Bullritos on Wednesday. We talked for almost an hour with the discussion spanning different topics such as how different the game is today, his history in football, the upcoming year for Eastside and more.
Eastside football has had a busy summer so far. They’ve been working hard preparing for the upcoming season and you can see the chronicles of some of their work on Twitter as Eagles’ head coach Troy Hoff hashtags it with a #WeBleedGREEN. This is Hoff’s first year as the head of the snake or in this case eagle and his responsibilities are different from what they were this time last year when Hoff was just an offensive line coach and the weight of leading the team was on former head coach Rick Hurst.
“I always loved football. It probably suited me, I was bigger and faster sooner and I grew up around the game,” Hoff said.
Despite being a rookie head coach, Hoff doesn’t lack experience. He’s been coaching for 14 years at the high school level and 10 of them have been at Eastside. Coaching for Hoff is also a family business, it’s in his blood. Hoff’s father played linebacker in college and was a high school football coach as Hoff grew up.
Hoff, a four sport athlete in high school playing everything from football to baseball, says that his dad is old school, so of course that rubbed off on him. He says that his parents, who are from South Dakota, come down a couple of times a year to watch the team play and his dad is amazed at how different football culture is in the south.
Hoff’s dad is amazed by how much money goes into programs these days. Hoff tells a story about how he recently had to get some more football helmets. He needed 10 and knew it be at least $2,000.
“But what do I do? The kids gotta have a helmet,” Hoff said laughing.
Safety at high school level
Talking to most coaches and they’ll tell you that they really haven’t seen a huge difference in head injuries even with the new rules and safer equipment. Hoff agrees with that notion, but he acknowledges the fact that it’s smarter to have these contingencies in place.
He says that his main thing is keeping players hydrated because not only does it hamper performance but it can lead to serious injuries or even death. Back in his day and in his father’s, the game wasn’t deemed as safe as it is now.
“You can’t get water until Jimmy touches the line. It’s gonna be a minute,” Hoff recalled laughing.
“I still think we’re not that far away from that old-school mentality of “you don’t get water for” another 10 minutes,” Hoff said jokingly. “I grew up under some of that. I look back and go, ‘Man we’re lucky somebody didn’t die or get sued.’”
There are differences in today’s game other than the new rules dictating player safety. Hoff says that he has a hybrid coaching style with a combination of old and new school and that this is a tough game for tough people that help young men get ready for life. He says that you have to be willing to adapt and coach kids how they need to be coached.
“We can’t coach kids today like maybe my era or even afterwards. We talk about that a lot, how, and I’m no different, today everything’s at my fingertips. Kids gotta know why they’re doing something,” Hoff said.
Hoff is adaptable, which is necessary in coaching x’s and o’s but it’s even more valuable in regards to reaching the youth. He’s old school enough to value the player/coach relationship and new school enough to adapt his methods.
The coaching staff at Eastside is focused on getting its players not to worry about making a mistake or worrying about a bad play and move on to the next rep whether it’s playing football or getting a bad grade.
“A lot of them want to do so well that when that failure does hit, it’s hard for them to get over it,” Hoff said. “I think that’s probably natural of young competitive athletes until they learn that look, ‘I can’t do anything about that play. I gotta go.’ That’s one thing we try to continually stress every day, your attitude and your effort let’s go today. Yesterday’s over.”
Currently, the Eagles are focused on getting better every day. They have a talented roster with a strong rising junior class that includes standouts like Austin Holloway, Eric Stokes and Josh Sims.
When asked what his goals were for a team coming off a trip to the second round of the playoffs, Hoff said, “We don’t really set goals on winning and losing because I think that’s a little bit dangerous. Now we always want to win every game, be competitive and win championships. That’s part of it, but I think if you set out there to win x amount of games and you fall short of that then everybody looks at that as a failure. Maybe that’s all you can get out of that team.
“Every team wants to win a state title, well to be honest with you in 4-A there’s probably, let’s say 20 teams that have a realistic shot of that happening and I may be stretching it. What we always said is we want to play smart, physical football. We want to basically be a region presence and host game 11. If we’re doing those things then we’re in the show, we're giving ourselves a chance and at that point that means we had a good regular season.”
Systematically, not much will change with Hoff in charge. He says he’ll adapt his defense to the personnel Eastside has and the offense will always be spread out. He praised Holloway – joking that he’s afraid he’ll lose him to baseball one day – for his growth and maturity since his freshman year. Hoff recognizes that this year Holloway is more of a natural leader and he’s gotten to the point where the coaches can allow him to change plays at the line of scrimmage based on what he sees.
“Sounds minds equal fast feet,” Hoff says. He says that because it’s his philosophy not to overcomplicate things for kids to the point that when they play they’re thinking and not playing.
Stokes is tearing up the summer. He recently ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at a camp at Georgia Tech. He’s already been offered by Georgia Southern and he’s yet to play his junior year.
Stokes is a beast in track and field and in football. Hoff spoke about how valuable it is for players to play multiple sports in high school and how college scouts see that as a plus. Stokes, Holloway and Sims are all examples of that.
When he started coaching, Hoff really enjoyed being a coordinator, he could’ve stayed in his last role and been really, really happy he says. Hoff knew four or five years ago that he wanted to be a head coach eventually so he started inquiring about a few spots, and checked different areas. He says working with Hurst helped him a lot because he never held him back.
Hoff says that his coaching staff is great and he views that as one of the most important factors going forward.
For Hoff, getting guys that are good teachers was the No. 1 criteria. Being able to work with a staff that has been together for years was second. Assistant coaches Frankey Iverson, Jay Cawthon and Hoff have been together for 10 years, together they built the offense from the ground up.
Most of the staff has been with the team for some time, Nathan Ogle has been with them for eight years. Anderico Bailey played under Hoff and came back to coach and he’s known coach Chuck Jordan since he was at Newton.
“I really like our staff. That’s always our No. 1 concern, it’s not so much me. I know I’m driving the bus, but it’s like I’ve always said it’s getting the right guys on the bus and then we’ll figure out where to put them. I think we did that so that was huge,” Hoff said.