Charlie Stubbs went into his first head coaching job with the Nicholls State football team last fall knowing it was going to take time to effect change.
Even though Stubbs had no head coaching experience, he had spent 23 years as a college assistant and was prepared and committed to roll up his sleeves and overhaul a program that had just three winning seasons in the previous 10 years.
“You have to start somewhere,” Stubbs said. “We knew there would be a lot of change, and it wasn’t just me. We put in new philosophies and schemes on offense, defense and special teams.”
The growing pains were evident at times, but the Colonels finished 4-7 - including a 3-4 mark in the Southland Conference - after closing the season with two satisfying victories.
“There’s going to be change no matter what program we’re talking about,” said Stubbs, who saw and learned a lot in coaching stops at nine different colleges before settling in at Nicholls State.
The biggest changes came on offense and defense.
Stubbs ditched the longtime offense of choice at Nicholls State - the triple option - in favor of a multiple pro set. He also scrapped the 4-3 defense and installed a 3-4 to get more speed on the field from an extra linebacker or safety.
The initial results were encouraging to Stubbs as the Colonels, who got off to an 0-3 start, went 4-4 the rest of the way.
“There were some bumps in the road, but we stayed the course,” said Stubbs. “We beat some good football teams.”
A four-overtime road upset of 22nd-ranked Texas State was a highlight along with wins over instate rivals Northwestern State and Southeastern to close the season of changes.
“The players didn’t have a problem (changing), because I came here with experience and having had success at big schools,” said Stubbs, who welcomes back 20 starters - 10 on each side of the ball. “They listened, and I believe that we definitely set a great foundation for the program.”
With that foundation set, Stubbs knew he had to build a lot more depth - especially on the offensive and defensive lines - which he said they did this offseason.
“I’ve always been an offensive coach, and I learned that to be successful you have to be good up front,” he said. “Last year, we were pretty thin - and most of them were used to blocking for the option.
“We have 16 offensive linemen this year, and that’s a lot for this level of football. So I’m pleased with that.”
That group, which is led by 6-foot-6, 350-pound left tackle Jarrad Hernandez, will try to open holes for the top returning playmakers: quarterback LaQuintin Caston, a Scotlandville High grad, and running back Jesse Turner.
Caston, a dual threat, was an honorable mention All-SLC pick who accounted for 1,718 yards and 18 TDs, while Turner was a second-team all-conference pick after rushing for 630 yards and eight TDs.
“We recruited more playmakers and more speed, because we only had a couple of guys who could create and take it the distance,” Stubbs pointed out. “We have more kids who can pressure the defense, so we feel real good about that side of the ball.”
Defensively, the Colonels got a good taste of the 3-4, which allows them to have more speed on the field and bring additional pressure at times.
Inside linebacker Jordan Piper, the top returning tackler who had three interceptions, provides some of that speed along with first-team All-SLC cornerback Bobby Felder, who picked off four passes.
Safety Jordan Hanberry is also back after earning honorable mention all-conference honors as a freshman a year ago.