GHSF Daily's Four Questions feature historically poses the same questions to a different Georgia head coach each issue. This season, head coaches are being asked Four Questions tailored to current events. Today's interviewee is T.L. Hanna (S.C.) head coach Jeff Herron, who won 287 games and five state championships in Georgia, most recently at Grayson in 2016, before taking over as the Yellow Jackets' coach in 2017. T.L Hanna, located in Anderson, is 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 5A, South Carolina's highest classification.
Jeff Herron, T.L. Hanna (S.C.) head coach
1. How is your program doing overall, and this year in particular, and what has been the response from the community? "We have certainly made some progress with our program, but we still have a ways to go. Last year we were undefeated but lost to a team in the second round that we had beaten in the regular season. As a program, I don't think we were quite ready for the mental toughness needed to finish the drill. Hopefully this year we can handle that better. The community has been great. Anderson is really a great place to live, and T.L. Hanna has always had great support for all of their programs. Our superintendent, Mr. Thomas Wilson, was at Carrollton, Buford and Marietta, so he certainly understands what it takes. And my principal, Mr. Shawn Tobin, is a former Georgia administrator as well." [Hanna improved from 6-5 to 11-1 in Herron's first season.]
2. What changes have occurred to turn things in the direction they are now going? "I think the most important change was in the weight room. We now have most of our players in the same class and we are on block scheduling, so we get almost two hours with them every morning. Of course, I was able to bring in some really good assistants, and that has helped speed up the process. Just getting everyone pulling in the same direction for the most part."
3. T.L. Hanna is your eighth head-coaching opportunity. For coaches newly hired as head coach at a school, what advice would you give them in terms of what their immediate priorities should be? "I remember when I first took the Oconee County job [in 1997], I spent the first two weeks working on new stationary and helmet decals. Then I watched one of their films from the year before and realized I had made a terrible mistake. It may sound elementary, but the first priority, in my opinion, has to be winning the players over, convincing them that you have a plan you believe in and that as long as they are willing to follow that plan then anything is possible. Then you have to find the right coaches. Some may already be there, and some you may need to hire, but they are critical to your success. In football, you cannot win without a strong staff." [Several members Herron's coach staff have strong Georgia ties. Offensive coordinator Jason Tone coached with Herron at Camden County and is a former Worth County head coach. Defensive coordinator Kevin Patterson played for Herron at Camden, then at Wake Forest, and was coaching at Tucker. Garrett Hochstetler and Austin Wilder were on Herron's staff at Prince Avenue Christian. Marvell McKelphin is a former head coach at Banneker. Drake McCauley played at Franklin County and was on Tone's staff at Worth. Eric Bona played at Franklin County and was an assistant at several Georgia schools. Zach Gordon played at Carrollton and Wake Forest and is a first-year coach.]
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4. How does football in South Carolina compare to that in Georgia? "I have been asked that question a lot since I got here, but I am not sure I have been here long enough to really know. Like Georgia, there seems to be pockets that play really good football and some areas that don't. I think the Upstate in 5A has several really good teams. I don't know much about the Lowcountry yet, but everyone tells me that Dutch Fork could play with anyone in the country. I can only base my opinion on the teams I have seen, and I would have to say that Georgia might have a few more higher-level teams, but overall from top to bottom I think the states are very similar."
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