LANDRUM – Brent Bridges isn’t new to the head coaching game, having led the program at Chesnee from 2007-2011. It’s been a while, though. And now, the new Landrum head coach is getting used to the position again.
“You forget a lot of the little things you have to deal with on a daily basis,” said Bridges, most recently an assistant coach at Broome, said after finishing a Labor Day morning practice. “There’s always something coming up. You have to deal with those things. Spending the last 11 years being a coordinator, all I had to do was get a practice schedule ready, make sure our guys were ready, and go out and coach. You don’t have to deal with all those little things.
“Watching Coach (Lynn) Fleming (at Broome), you knew some of those little things were going on, but you didn’t know everything. There’s always something to deal with, somebody to call, something to order. There’s just constantly something going on.”
The Xs and Os haven’t changed for Bridges. Neither have the players. Their environment, though, and the environment surrounding high school football as a whole is a different matter. Bridges said that part of the job has almost totally changed in the past decade.
“Oh, there’s been a tremendous change,” he said. “You’re not making copies and trading film anymore. It’s right there in front of you any time you want it. But with those technological things, one of the big changes is social media. You’re not just trying to monitor yours, you also worry about what your players are seeing, what’s being said.
“Those kids stay on social media in some form or fashion because it’s the world they grew up in. You wish you could shelter them some, but you can’t so that’s totally different.”
Getting eyes on his players for a chance to continue their careers at the next level is different, too.
“Oh, there’s no doubt social media can be a good thing, too,” Bridges said. “You can use it to promote your kids, and recruiting has changed a ton to use that technology. It’s a whole different ballgame.”
It’s the same ballgame on the field, but it might not look like it for Landrum. Bridges brings a spread offense to the Cardinals, replacing an offense that relied on a run-heavy attack. He said the Cardinals are excited but, like any wholesale change, adjustments will take time.
“The buy-in has been great, but it’s still been tough,” he said. “Take last Friday, for example, playing a really good (St. Joseph’s) team. They’re disciplined and sound, and in the first half our offensive line struggled. It’s not that St. Joe’s is that much better than us, they just did so many different things and they were able to get some pressure on us. Our kids aren’t used to pass protection, to picking up blitzes, to keeping their eyes up, because it’s just totally different.
“That was tough. We got it figured out in the second half, but we had eight to 10 dropped passes. We just hafe to keep working through those things, and there are going to be some obstacles.”
One of those obstacles is depth and numbers.
“Overall our guys are doing a great job, but until they get more in-game experience with it, it’s going to be tough,” Bridges said. “You can’t simulate that in-game experience as well as you’d like, especially at a small school, because once you get past the guys playing, it’s hard to find the numbers to get a good scout team look.”
There are adjustments even for the Cardinals’ standouts. Colton Link was one of Spartanburg County’s top rushers a year ago, and is again expected to lead Landrum. Bridges said he’s had to make some adjustments as well.
“Colton’s speed helped him in week one against Berea, and we were able to get him on the edge and use him,” Bridges said. “But he’s still learning that he has freedom, and that his vision can be his strength. He’s used to hitting the holes and going, but we need him to see that he can bounce a play a different way if he sees something positive.
“So that’s been a learning point, and he’s also learning how to pick up pressure and how to be an extra blocker in the backfield. We’re putting a lot of emphasis on that.”
Bridges is also addressing some of those growing pains by getting heavily involved in Landrum’s youth programs, something that he did at Chesnee and at Broome as an assistant.
“Jason (Farmer, Landrum’s former coach) did a great job and laid a great foundation with the youth programs,” Bridges said. “That’s something we try to be very involved with as well. They practice at the middle school, but we moved the two older teams, the fifth and sixth graders, to the high school. That way after we practice, we can get out there and watch them and help them.
“Eventually, we’d like to get them all up to the high school so we have no excuse not to go help them. Being in our first year, we want to see how things have been done and maybe tweak things if we need to. This year is just kind of sitting back and seeing how and where we can help.”
Bridges said the ultimate goal for the Cardinals is the same as any other program – lifting a trophy.
“We’re building toward being a championship football program,” he said. “As a coach, if that’s not your goal, I’m not sure why you’re doing it. And the pieces are there for us, particularly in our younger age groups. We feel that our middle school guys are really good this year, and our fourth-through-seventh grade groups are strong. We’re just making sure we guide those guys in the right direction.”