Everywhere Brad Turner has been as a high school football coach, he’s been a rebuilder. It’s a reputation he embraces.
From Lone Oak to Sulpher Springs to Springtown, Turner has turned the downtrodden into winners and given fan bases a reason to feel pride. But his next stop is the ideal project – building a team from square one at the new Northwest ISD high school.
Turner, 49, doesn’t inherit a senior class that might be loyal to the previous staff. He doesn’t have to change the culture. There also isn’t a need to change what is being run at the feeder schools. Comparisons to his predecessors can’t be made.
R.V. Eaton High School’s first football coach can do everything from scratch. He can build the program in his image and see where he can take it from its August opening. The Eagles will play a junior varsity schedule before playing a varsity schedule in 2016. All of the team sports will play sub-varsity schedules. The individual sports – golf, tennis and wrestling, to name a few – will compete at the varsity level immediately.
Turner spent a year as a defensive backs coach in Graham but met Northwest Athletic Director Susan Elza in previous mutual circumstances. For more than one year he made his interest in Eaton known to Elza. In February, Elza placed her trust in him.
“To me this is the ultimate job,” Turner said. “When you’re doing this from the ground up, it’s the best challenge. It’s not for everyone. This is something I always wanted to do. What some people look at as a pain in the neck, I love it. It’s awesome.”
As it stands, Eaton will collect more students zoned to go to Northwest than Byron Nelson. It appears that when the University Interscholastic League aligns Eaton, it will start as a Class 5A school. But that may not last long. By the 2018 realignment, it could move up to 6A. Now you know why the NISD needs a third high school.
“For this job, everything we do, good or bad, we’re going to do it brick by brick,” Turner said. “We don’t have to spend time on different things. We can hit the ground running.”
This isn’t a situation where Turner has shown up on campus and is waiting for it all to happen. He’s nearly hired his full staff, developed schedules for his junior varsity and freshman teams, ordered all of the equipment and made the rounds at the feeder middle schools of Wilson, Tidwell and Medlin, meeting those coaches and getting to know the players who will soon be his. Obviously, there is no spring football. Eaton will start a week early in August. There will be conditioning camps at Wilson because Eaton won’t be open until August.
Followers can expect the Eagles to operate from the no-huddle spread under offensive coordinator Josh Strickland. Turner has coached six quarterbacks who have gone on to play in college, and he will have an influence. Defensive coordinator Ellis Miller (Carroll’s former linebackers coach) is asked to implement the 4-2-5 alignment.
Just how many players will be in the program is hard to gauge. But when you’re starting from the bottom, everything is fluid. Quick adjustments have to be made. There are ideas on who could be quarterbacks, but nothing is definite.
But there will be expectations. Despite a trial-by-fire 2015 season, Turner is sending this message to his future players and really to all those who will be competing in athletics at Eaton: Expect to win.
“The bottom line is that I expect to win,” Turner said. “If we’re going to be successful, we have to practice and play a certain way. Obviously, we’re going to have growing pains. But this is a task that I welcome.”