Though on the job for only about three weeks, new Manchester High School head football coach Jay Brophy has filled out a good portion of his coaching staff.
He was able to retain Tim Paul, Mark Yocum and Jason Jividen from former head coach Jim France’s staff, and he has convinced Ben Flossie, son of Akron Garfield High School coaching legend Babe Flossie, to come out of retirement and serve as defensive coordinator.
"I like Ben and his style. He’s laid-back," Brophy said, adding that Jividen will be heavily involved in the search to find an offensive coordinator.
In addition, Brophy was able to add former Coventry High head coach Jerami Hodgkinson, who works at Manchester Middle School, to the staff. That’s five assistants.
"There’s a possibility we may add one or two more. I’m still working on that," said Brophy, who was also part of France’s staff.
Now with his coaching staff pretty much filled out, he hopes to have the same good fortune with the player roster.
"We have a number in the high 30s of players committed to be in our lifting program (which started last week)," Brophy said. "We want to get to 40, actually into the 40s, if we can. It’s important to have numbers for the depth. Our lack of numbers hurt us last year."
Numbers-wise, the Panthers ended the 2019 season in the high 20s, with a lot of freshmen and sophomores, making it France’s smallest team – and probably also his youngest -- in his 49 years at Manchester.
"We’re working to make sure that the players off last year’s team come back," Brophy said. "I’m also trying to reach out to kids who played at some point in the past to see if they would come back. The other coaches are contacting kids, too, and the players themselves are trying to recruit some of their friends."
Getting the numbers out is not an easy task in this day and age for any football program, but it’s one for which Brophy is well-suited. He’s an excellent communicator, and that’s part of the reason why he was hired, as parents of players off last year’s team went to bat for him to district officials, raving about he treated their sons.
"I’m a talker, while Coach France was a quiet guy," he said. "I have to be who I am. We’re going to work very hard, but we have to keep it fun. If it’s not fun for the players, they’ll ask, ‘Why are we here?’ "
What is not a lot of fun – for both the coaches and players – is working within the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s tough," Brophy said. "This is such a different time. No one has been through anything like this. Having Zoom meetings with the players, which is the only way we’ve been able to communicate with them to this point, was not easy. I’m not a Zoom guy, I can tell you that. I like to interact with the kids face-to-face. We’ll get to start to see each other with the weight room stuff. It will be good to get together.
"But we’ll work with the situation as it is and do what we have to do. We’ll do the best we can, but the thing of it is that no one knows if the way we’ve been told to do things will work. We’ll just have to let it play out."
Given that, Brophy is "very pleased" with how much he and his staff have been able to do thus far.
"Our thought all along has been to do as much as we can right now, and we’ll continue to do that," he said.
Especially with increasing the number of players on the team.