By Brian Paglia
If Morrow improves from a one-win season, it will do so with only five returning starters and a coaching staff of four.
But if that ostensibly handicaps the efforts of Larry Mortonson in his second year as football coach at Morrow, he doesn't consider it an excuse worth employing.
"We don't use excuses," Mortonson said. "Whether it's four coaches or 40, the principles of football are the same. We've got things organized and set-up so that we can get the job done."
Last year, Mortonson had a robust staff of eight assistant coaches, about the standard size. No Clayton school had more than eight assistants; none had less than six.
Some Henry schools had as many as 10 or 11. Woodland, in just its third year, goes into the 2009 season with 13 assistant coaches.
So consider Mortonson's task with just three assistants.
No longer are the services of Anthony McKissic, Travis Hinton, Maurice Hicks, Herbert Dunbar and Berry Dukes available. Each of them either coached or assisted with other sports.
Dukes was abruptly dismissed as baseball coach in the middle of the season.
What's left of last year's staff is Adam Collins, who returns as offensive coordinator; Victor Stokes, who again coaches running backs and now also linebackers; and Jerry Moore, a former head coach at Morrow who went 30-23 from 1994-98.
He coached the Mustangs to a 10-2 record his final season, Morrow's last winning season.
Now, he's a community coach that helps with the Mustangs' kicking game.
There is no defensive coordinator. A search for one is underway, but someone on the current staff may have to assume that roll, Mortonson said.
So they are doing the work of eight or nine or 10 coaches with just four, but learning the same things about their team no matter how many coaches were there to observe.
"Over the summer," Mortonson said, "we're just going to have to work on our fundamentals. Trying to teach catching, throwing, reading coverages and running routes."
Mortonson said senior Charles West will move to quarterback from wide receiver.
Senior wide receiver C.J. Combs impressed during spring practices. And the defense, which allowed 30.2 points a game last season, showed better aggressiveness during the Mustangs' spring game, Mortonson said.
Morrow's off-season boils down to the remaining coaches hoping the remaining players can improve in Mortonson's second season.
"They've at least gone through the system," Mortonson said, "whether it be through actual playing time or through practice and film. We're hoping to be a little ahead of the game."
The Mustangs will open the season with a scrimmage at Spalding County Aug. 15.