Jack Welch is entering his 21st season as Copperas Cove’s head football coach and is looking to extend the Bulldawgs’ current playoff streak to 11 consecutive appearances.
Although the summer has just begun, Welch is already immersed in preparations for the upcoming season.
Herald reporter Clay Whittington recently discussed the offseason with Welch.
Two of your seniors — quarterback Manny Harris (UTSA) and defensive end Tyrell Thompson (Houston) — recently made verbal commitments to play collegiately. Do you believe there are any downsides to committing early?
I actually do think there are some downsides, but most of it’s upside. Of course, we know the upsides — the kids being able to be focused, knowing they have something in hand. The downside is they really don’t have anything in hand. I think for the most part it’s good. The colleges begin to have that relationship with the players, so it’s pretty well set.
The fact of the matter is things have changed over the last decade. If they sign 25 kids, they’ll have like 50 or 60 commitments. How can that happen? That’s the downside — we realize the numbers just don’t work out. It usually shakes out, though, and that’s what they’re all anticipating — that over the course of time, it’ll shake out. In other words, if they have two for one on the commitments, over a course of time, they’ll talk to you, and if they decide to go another way, they kind of let that be known or they’ll let the kids slip through their fingers. That’s how it works.
In reality, when it comes right down to it and they still have more committed than what they’re going to sign, somebody gets left out. It’s almost like lying. You’re committed to each other, and then all of a sudden, the school doesn’t offer it to you. On the other hand, and I’ve talked to schools about this, they’ll say the kid can do the same thing.
They’re kids, and as a grown man, you know the right part of selling and when you’ve sold somebody something, you’ve been very thorough and now you’re getting commitments before their final season even comes. You don’t know how they’re going to perform. Some kids won’t perform real well, and a school will pull from them and go with somebody else simply because, even though I know, the kids don’t know because they’re just taking it word for word, a lot more kids committed to that one spot than what is actually there.
Overall, I’d say it’s OK, but there are some downsides, and one is there’s nothing really there until it’s signed on signing day. What I would like to see, because I’ve talked to some lawyers on this, is a verbal commitment that’s a verbal offer — a verbal contract. But it’s going to take a group lawsuit to get the colleges out of this. Will this ever happen? I don’t know because colleges usually have more money than individuals.
Your 7-on-7 team made it to the state tournament for the first time since 2010. How exciting is that for the program?
It’s exciting that the kids have made it, and you want them to do well. It’s kind of like playing tiddlywinks or anything you play, you want to see the kids successful. As far as the program is concerned, I don’t think it means a hill of beans difference because it’s 7-on-7, and 7-on-7 is not really football as far as playing the game of football. We went to state a whole bunch of years in a row. It’s a totally different ball game, so I don’t think it makes a lot of difference to the program, but it’s exciting to go. So I’m excited to see our team qualify, and it also takes some of the pressure off of trying to qualify each week. Now, you sit back and go play and have a good time and enjoy. When the state thing comes, let the fur fly, but realizing you can win state in 7-on-7 and not have a winning season in football and vice versa.
Outside of winning games, what do you want the players to accomplish during 7-on-7?
It’s not just winning ball games; the real key is the quarterbacks and receivers throwing and catching the ball: accuracy of your quarterback, catching the football in a crowd, making great catches, concentrating on catches, hand-eye coordination. Then your defensive backs with good coverage, being able to run, cut and move, breaking on the ball. That’s football. That’s the part of 7-on-7, the skill part of it that is good. The game part of it, you can get a first down by shoveling the ball to a guy across the line, things you can’t do in a real football game. The skill part of it is what I like about 7-on-7. That’s needed and it’s very important.
In your opinion, how valuable is 7-on-7 as a part of the offseason?
I think it’s very important. It keeps them focused, keeps them playing and keeps the skill set. There are other things in there, too, like staying involved. The linemen stay involved with the lineman’s challenge. It’s not that they’re playing football out there, but they’re competing and you keep them active. I also like to see the AAU sports, basketball, volleyball. It keeps the kids active and involved, keeps them off the streets. That’s why I think all this is good.
Your NCAA Football Camp for incoming first- through sixth-graders just finished up. What is the main thing you hope campers learn by attending?
To love the game of football. We want those little kids to love it, have fun and enjoy it, but also learn a little bit about the skill set. They’re young, they’ve got a lot of time to go. They learn how to throw and catch, good form tackling, little things like that. The main thing is to love it, enjoy it and have fun.
Three of your graduated seniors competed in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Victory Bowl on Saturday. As a coach, how neat is it to get to see your players take part is something like that?
It’s a goodness in your heart, to be honest. I like to see those kids get another opportunity. Some of those kids will never play another game, so this is it, and to be able to go and do it on an all-star basis, it’s exciting. They get to see a different level of competition that makes them step up and compete in a different role, but most importantly, they’re making memories for a lifetime, and that’s what makes you feel good as a coach.
I know you are a baseball fan. Who do you like in the College World Series?
I think TCU has got a chance to win this thing. It’s exciting to see this, especially having them and Texas and Texas Tech in there. Hopefully, a Texas school will take it home, and I’m pulling for all of them.