It doesn’t happen often. A new coach usually will not inherit a current state champion.
Trevor Hoskins would not pass up the opportunity when Paintsville athletic director Morris Copley came calling.
Hoskins never considered altering his philosophy or approach after his new team won its first state title last season.
“I don’t think it has changed my mindset at all,” Hoskins said. “I think it’s going to be the same whether they went 10-0 or 0-10. I think you have to come and put your stamp on it and build the culture that you want to build here. You have to work hard every day.
“I am fortunate to step into this situation,” he added. “You don’t have to teach a work ethic here. That’s already been instilled. The players have embraced it really well.”
Hoskins didn’t arrive in Paintsville full-time until April because he was still on the Pikeville —the university, not the Tigers’ Class A rival — coaching staff as the Bears finished up their Mid-South Conference slate.
Hoskins set the all-time passing mark at UPike and will be establishing a new offensive scheme this year.
“It’s always difficult putting in a new system from scratch,” Hoskins said. “Our seniors on the team are now like freshmen in the sense of their knowledge of the offense. Some of the things we do are similar. The terminology and the verbiage are different. And perhaps, in some way, the manner in which I teach things is different than what they were used to in the past.”
Junior Harris Phelps accumulated 1,406 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns last season, including a 221-yard performance in the Class A state final.
Hoskins’s new spread design should allow Phelps even more room to operate, despite the fact he is a more physical back.
“It’s been different learning the new scheme,” Phelps said. “Once you get the hang of it, there is not much difference. It’s been smooth sailing early on in practice.
“I’ve never been a huge vocal guy. You can always lead by example and that’s what I try to do.”
Hoskins will put an emphasis on a downhill rushing attack. He said the team is adapting well.
“Everybody starts with a clean slate,” Hoskins said. “I had no knowledge of what they did last year other than watching films of the games. I tell them all the time it’s a process, not an event. It’s going to take time, but it’s heading in the right direction.”
The Tigers start fresh at the quarterback position. Junior A.J. James takes over for four-year starter Jake Hyden. His new coach and former college quarterback has seen plenty of progress from the new signal-caller in the preseason.
James will also contribute to the running game.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Hoskins said. “I was a quarterback coach at the college level, so I love working with (James). He is a coachable guy. He hasn’t been asked to throw the ball down the field consistently, and I was really impressed with his physical ability to do that. I think he has the ability where teams will have to defend us sideline to sideline and end zone to end zone. He is a smart kid who can make any read that we ask him to make.”
Zach Taylor has great speed and size. The senior will line up at the receiver spot, but could get carries at times to decrease the workload for Phelps, according to Hoskins.
The new coach expects big things from the Tigers’ feature running back this year. He sees Phelps as a very crafty rusher.
“I don’t care what school you are at in the state of Kentucky, Harris can play for anybody,” Hoskins said. “He is a tremendous football player. He’s the type of guy that does all the right things and is a great leader. He comes in every day to work and lead by example. He is explosive and a guy that is versatile. We can get creative and use him in a lot of different ways.”
Phelps has dedicated the offseason to the weight room and said the team has put in a copious amount of time on the practice field this summer.
“I always try to work even harder than I did last year,” Phelps said. “I tried to put some weight on. All the credit goes to my offensive line and the coaches. They did everything for me.”
The offensive and defensive line welcomes back senior Parker Preece after his quick return from tearing three ligaments in his knee last season.
Fellow seniors Aaron Baker and Matthew Davis give the Tigers experience up front and Paintsville adds some talent and size to the mix.
“We have five good linemen out there,” Davis said, “so it will still be the same. We all work hard together.”
Hoskins is still learning his new personnel before he determines where they will be positioned on the field. With their small-school status, most Tigers will play on both sides of the ball.
James and Harris will reside in the defensive backfield. They will join Austin Allen. Hoskins said he is the quickest player on the team and an explosive athlete.
“The names you heard on offense will be on defense,” Hoskins said. “That’s life at a Class A school. When it’s all said and done, we will have guys out there that can make plays for us.”