RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - Dean Hood is back where he once belonged.
Hood, 44, spent five seasons as an assistant to Roy Kidd at
Eastern Kentucky in the 1990s before eventually moving on to Wake
Forest, where he helped head coach Jim Grobe turn the once lowly
Demon Deacons into contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
No such rebuilding effort is required at EKU, one of the reasons
Hood took the job despite taking over a team that lost 14 starters
from a year ago.
"It sounds scary on paper when you lose 20 seniors and 14
starters, but you're not going to come in here and go 2-9," he
said. "They've had 30 straight winning seasons. That's one of the
things that attracted me to the job."
The Colonels are coming off a 9-3 season that saw them win their
19th Ohio Valley Conference championship and go undefeated against
fellow Football Championship Subdivision opponents until a loss to
Richmond in the opening round of the playoffs.
While there are holes to fill on the offensive line and at
linebacker, the Colonels should once again be among the OVC's best.
Rather than overhaul the offense, Hood decided to stick with
what works. Quarterback Allan Holland returns after completing 60
percent of his passes for 1,990 yards and 14 touchdowns against
just four interceptions last season. He proved equally nimble on
the ground, running for 212 yards and four scores.
C.J. Walker leads the running backs, though he's been pushed by
Aaron Bradley and newcomer H.B. Benjamin in practice.
There are plenty of questions at wide receiver, and Hood joked
practice looks like a scene out of "Ben Hur" because there are so
many players vying for playing time at the position.
Hood's biggest surprise has been the depth at defensive line,
which he said is just as good as what he had at Wake Forest. Chris
Coy, Chris Halal, Chris Harris and Aaron Jones lead the way there
and the secondary may be the best in the OVC. Seniors Brandon
Gathof, Zach Denton and Kody Tuupo head a unit that picked off 24
passes a year ago.
"I like our talent level," he said. "For us it's going to
come down to the little things, the fundamental things. Schemes and
all that stuff are fun, but it's real easy as a coach to lose sight
of the small stuff."
It's a mindset Hood learned from Grobe, who is so highly
respected by his peers that whenever Hood would talk to an opposing
coach, the coach would inevitably ask about Grobe's secret. Turns
out, there isn't any.
"They wanted some Vince Lombardi speech we gave them, but that
just wasn't the case," Hood said. "Coach Grobe is just an
authentic human being and he always treated the players and coaches
with a great deal of respect. The kids just wanted to play hard for
him and that the thing I hope rubbed off on me."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)