PINETOPS – Around the time SouthWest Edgecombe starting quarterback Quay Wooten was born, first-year Cougars coach Jonathan Cobb received his first copy of a college football video game.
Almost 18 years later, the two random events couldn’t be more inter-connected.
In his first year as a head coach, Jonathan Cobb has ushered in a new era of football at SouthWest Edgecombe, one he learned by playing video games and watching college football on Saturdays.
“What I want to do each year is look at the players we have and look at their abilities and try to put them in a position to be successful, while at the same time, maintain offensively a base system that will help the program transition from year to year,” said Cobb, who has every copy of NCAA Football since 1996.
SouthWest Edgecombe’s base is the wishbone offense, and Cobb understands that. He spent years watching it from the sidelines while his father, Raymond, was coaching at SouthWest Edgecombe and North Edgecombe. But during that time, he also picked up offensive schemes of his own.
So this year, the Cougars (4-4, 1-1 Eastern Plains Conference) aren’t predictable when they break the huddle. Sure, the wishbone offense still is a major part of the attack – the Cougars beat North Pitt, 36-22, using the tight formation exclusively – but there’s more.
SouthWest Edgecombe has a base four-receiver set and has even gone with five receivers this season. The reason is because Cobb has a handful of skill players that can run in any formation.
Running back Marcus Williams is a wing back with 4.4 speed but also is a shift slot receiver. Devontrell Hyman has the power to play fullback in tight, but he has the quick feet to elude tacklers in a one-back formation.
Quantellas Norwood switches from tight end to either quarterback or receiver when the Cougars go spread, allowing Wooten to flank out on occasion.
“We like the change,” said Wooten, who also plays Madden or NCAA video games. “It’s a change for the better. More players get to show what they got.”
While the offense has become more elaborate, the defense has followed suit. Although he’s the head coach, Cobb has almost nothing to do with it.
When he took over the team for his father, Cobb knew he wanted to turn over the defense to an experienced coordinator. He hoped it would be one of two coaches – A.B. Whitley or Jeff Gould. Gould, who was the Cougars’ offensive line coach, accepted and has done for the Cougars’ defense what Cobb has done to the offense.
Traditionally, and almost exclusively a 4-4, Cover-3 defense in the past, the Cougars have touched on just about every defensive alignment this season.Gould has jumped them from man defense to all different kinds of zone looks – cover 2, 3 and 4 – all while staying in a base 4-3 that has allowed SouthWest Edgecombe to adapt to the variety of defenses.
“Now, we’ve got about every kind of coverage in there,” said Gould, who was the offensive line coach during the East-West All-Star Game this past summer. “... We’ve been working on it since the summer.”
The Cougars attended a passing league this summer, allowing for both its offensive attack and secondary to learn. As far as the defense is concerned, the fluidity is necessary – SouthWest Edgecombe faces a variety of offenses from Southern Nash’s air-tight running game to Wilson Beddingfield’s spread attack.
On defense, the adaptation starts in the film room.
“I get to the point sometimes that I just get tired of watching the film, but you have to,” Gould said. “Then, you go in and try to implement it and make the adjustments with what your kids can do with it.”
The result has been a strong defense that hasn’t given up many big plays and forces turnovers. SouthWest Edgecombe hasn’t allowed more than four touchdowns in any game this season, something only one other Twin Counties school has accomplished.
Video study is paying off on defense, and hours with a controller is working for the Cougars offense.
“Technology probably is playing a big part for all young coaches,” Cobb said. “For me, it’s a balancing act of knowing how to coach what I know how to coach, which is a run-dominant, wishbone-power type offense, then expanding my horizons with that technology.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com