Football season at University School of Jackson will look quite different in 2023 than it did in 2022.
There’s a new head coach in Derrick Pritchard, who was hired in February after former coach Michael Stroup resigned in January.
The Bruins also move up a class to Division II-AA, where they will compete with the likes of Lausanne, Northpoint Christian and Evangelical Christian School for region championships.
In addition to both of those changes, there’s the annual change that comes with graduation, except the USJ Class of 2023 had a number of football players it took with it, leaving not much Friday night experience in the Bruins’ fieldhouse.
“I’ve got five players on this team who’ve played meaningful snaps on Friday night,” Pritchard said.
While many would assume a small amount of returning experience would put USJ at a disadvantage early in the season, Pritchard sees a positive aspect to it.
“If the coaching change had been made a year earlier and I were coming in last year with all those seniors, that’s a lot of guys that already had a way of doing things in their mindset that would’ve been difficult to eliminate,” Pritchard said. “Now with a lot of young guys, it’s almost like all we have to do is simply instill our way of doing things without having to reprogram them from a prior way of doing things.
“And that’s not to say the way things were done here was bad, because it wasn’t. USJ has won a lot of games in the past four years, but I have my way of doing things.”
One thing Pritchard has wanted to make sure to instill into the team is a competitive nature.
“When you’re moving up in class, the thinking is that you’re moving up a level or two in competitiveness,” Pritchard said. “So I want our guys to change their entire way of thinking and be ready to compete at any given moment when we’re near the field or the fieldhouse.”
There’s a competition drill at the beginning of each practice with a competition period in the middle of practice. The drills they do change every day.
“The thing is we need to compete at everything we do, so that on Friday nights, we’ll always have a competitive character, a mindset to compete no matter what we’re doing,” Pritchard said. “And then we’re putting more competition on them toward the end of practice.
“Because I don’t want them getting to a game on Friday night and not already knowing what it’s like to be in a high-pressure situation with someone else trying to defeat you. If we can get them accustomed to that situation, I think we’ll put ourselves ahead of schedule.”
Pritchard, who grew up in Decatur County and is a former assistant coach at Trinity Christian and Chester County, made his return to West Tennessee this past winter after coordinating defense at Ensworth, a Division II-AAA program in Nashville.
Brandon Shields, email@example.com