With a new era arriving, Jeff Brothers is hoping to help lead Nashville Christian School back into top-tier football prominence in Davidson County.
The West Nashville school hasn’t made the playoffs since 2000, but the new NCS coach is trying to help the team end that streak and re-build some excitement around the school in West Nashville.
Brothers, 39, accepted the challenge of trying to get the Eagles to soar after he came over from coaching Pope JPII in nearby Sumner County. The top highlight in his eight seasons there was coaching two-time Mr. Football winner Golden Tate (later making All-American at Notre Dame). He helped the Knights to five playoff seasons, but they never won a playoff game (0-5).
Asked what he liked of what he saw so far after the four days of spring practice, Brothers said, “I like our innate toughness. I think this team has the ability to grow and learn, get better day by day.”
Brothers experienced significant success in high school. As a quarterback at Brentwood Academy, he helped guide the Eagles to two straight state championships (1987 and ’88), with the ’88 team finishing with a No. 7 ranking by USA Today.
He went on to become a four-year letterman at Vanderbilt, playing safety under head coaches Watson Brown and Gerry DiNardo.
He was an assistant at his alma mater, BA, for two years (1994-95), then coached at CPA for six years under David Pack before he took his first head coaching job at JPII in ’02.
“I liked the challenge at NCS, I liked the vision and the spirit of the people in the administration, the facilities and I like the NCS community,” he said. “A few times, I asked about what I needed, and before I knew it, it was done.”
Asked about his team’s work style, he said, “I like the kids in West Nashville, the kids at Hillwood High (are) same way. It just seems like there’s a toughness and a strong work ethic in this community. There is a real sense of school spirit here, kind of like the old days.
“Another thing I like is that it’s a good school and affordable. So many of the other schools are expensive, it’s out of a lot of peoples’ price range.”
Interestingly, the Eagles open the season with a Week 0 match against Hillwood, kind of an early battle of West Nashville. Last year, Hillwood toppled NCS 24-6 and sent Eagles the spiraling down a 1-9 injury-plagued season.
There’s work ahead. The past three seasons, NCS has gone a combined 7-23. In 2007, the Eagles got off to a 3-0 start but finished 4-6. It was the closest they came to the playoffs in the last 10 years. They have but six region wins in five years, three in that 2007 season.
“I’m really looking forward to the season,” senior quarterback Matt Ogle, who 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, said. “Coach Brothers has been a quarterback, he’s been through it all, and he knows what he’s talking about. He’s coached a two-time Mr. Football, Golden Tate, and he’s had success, and he knows a lot about the passing game.”
Asked about how fast the players are adapting to the new coaches, Brothers said, “They have responded well, they’ve learned a lot in a short time, and they are listening and learning quickly.”
Asked about his offense, Brothers said, “We’re going with a pro style, a power I and looking to throw the ball about 20-25 times a game, not excessively, but just what our talents allow us to do. Defensively, we’ll go with a standard 3-4.”
“In our first meeting, he wasn’t talking about taking two-three years to build a program, he talked about winning now,” Ogle said. “That’s awesome, I loved to hear that.
“Last year, we threw the ball on almost every down. This year, we’re going to throw it some, but we’re going to run it a lot, too, become a little more balanced.”
A top-notch group of receivers return, headed by senior Thomas Knobloch, a rangy 6-0, 170-pound senior. Last year, Knobloch had 50 catches for 850 yards (17 yards per catch), stats that ranked No. 2 in Middle Tennessee and No. 4 in the state, to go with six TDs. He had two nine-catch games.
“I’m going to try my best to do what I can and whatever the coaches want me to do to help the team win,’’ Knobloch said. “Coach Brothers is very sound, he doesn’t yell a lot, he works on fundamentals and he has a lot of knowledge. He’s played a lot of football, and he brings all of that experience to help our team.”
Said Brothers: “We have an outstanding coaching staff. Coach Phillip Montgomery came over from Brentwood Academy (as offensive line coach) and hopefully he can rub off some of the success and tradition BA has had over the years.”
John Crosby (defensive co-ordinator/linebackers), Ben Williams (wide receivers) and Ben Martin (running backs) bolster Brothers’ staff.
The Eagles have just 30 players out, so Brothers was looking more at some old-school style of play.
“Depth will be an issue,” he said. “We’ll have several guys who will go both ways, and we plan to be in excellent condition.”