Six applicants stood out.
But only one could be named the next head football coach and athletic coordinator at Harker Heights.
Thirty-three coaches submitted applications by the midnight Monday deadline and six were invited for an initial round of interviews Wednesday and today to replace former Knights head coach Mike Mullins, who resigned June 18 to accept an assistant coaching position at 3A Navasota.
His replacement could be decided today.
“We’re not going to rush into a decision, but at the same time we realize and recognize that time is of the essence at this point,” Killeen Independent School District Deputy Superintendent John Craft said earlier this week. “The committee may be able to come to a consensus and make a decision as early as (this) evening.”
Former North Forest head coach and athletic director Plez Atkins, Mansfield defensive coordinator Jerry Edwards and Round Rock Stony Point defensive coordinator Scott Stewart were chosen to be interviewed. Edwards was previously a finalist for the Ellison opening in January and Stewart was among the 14 interviewed.
Harker Heights offensive coordinator Rob Hagey, defensive coordinator Ty Oppermann and Killeen co-offensive coordinator Richard Daniels were also slated to interview. Daniels and Oppermann also applied for the Ellison position that went to Trent Gregory in late January.
Since Mullins’ abrupt departure, the Knights football program has been racked with uneasiness and worry from players and coaches alike, and with just one month before the start of fall preseason practices it doesn’t seem to be settling down any.
“I do believe once the candidate or individual is selected and hired, and is able to get started in communicating their vision for the program, a lot of that uneasiness and nervousness will be calmed down quite a bit,” Craft said.
Atkins, 39, was released as head football coach for the now-defunct North Forest ISD after his contract was non-renewed this summer. Late last month, North Forest ISD was officially shut down by the state due to poor academic standing and subsequently annexed by Houston ISD.
As a star two-way all-state player for 1A Bartlett in the early 1990s, Atkins led the Bulldogs to the 1990 and 1992 Class A state championships. He scored 27 touchdowns as a senior, including three on interception returns after registering 11 picks.
He went on to start 36 games in four years at the University of Iowa and spent two seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
Atkins is coming off an 11-1 campaign in just his second season leading North Forest, finishing the regular season 10-0 for the first time in school history before losing in the area round of the 4A playoffs.
Daniels has helped spearhead the Kangaroos’ passing offense since 2007, including finishing fourth in District 8-5A last season with more than 1,600 yards through the air.
Edwards, 34, has led Mansfield’s defense since 2008, with his defenses allowing an average of 27 points per game over that span, including an average of 23 points during the last two seasons as the Tigers went 18-7.
His defenses have finished among the top two in district in total yardage, points and rushing yards allowed in four of his five years with the program.
Hagey, in his first season as offensive coordinator, was part of an offensive turnaround with the Knights that registered a district-low 260 yards-per-game last season after early season struggles.
Oppermann, in his first season as defensive coordinator, led 8-5A’s second-ranked defense that allowed an average of 302 yards-per-game, including a district low 98.4 per game passing during the regular season.
Stewart, 38, is entering his third season as Stony Point’s defensive coordinator with his defenses allowing an average of nearly 24 points per game the last two years, including 22 per game last season with only four teams topping the 20-point plateau.
He also spent four years as defensive coordinator at Spring Westfield, which went 30-13 during his tenure.