Excited Rodgers ready to change Gilbert football - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Excited Rodgers ready to change Gilbert football

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Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 6:28 pm | Updated: 7:07 pm, Tue Jan 31, 2012.

Not four hours after being officially named Gilbert's new football coach, Leland Rodgers was headed for a Booster Club meeting.

After that, more meetings this week and next. And beyond.

Rodgers is moving himself barely four miles down the road. The defensive coordinator under Matt Gracey at Mesquite (and before that a defensive assistant during Mike Reardon's last year of coaching in 2010) now runs Gilbert's football program.

Other previous duties included a brief stint with former Gilbert coach Dan Dunn at Mesa Community College, and at Mesquite under former coach Rich Iverson. He also watched with part-delight, part-angst as many of his former Desert Vista kids he once coached as freshman and sophomores won the Division I state title.

He played at Dobson and then played college football at Florida-Atlantic, then spent the next two years as a student-assistant. He also ran strength and conditioning portions of most of those high school programs.

He laughed at those who've already questioned his coaching experience and accumen, praised the tradition Dunn and former coach Jesse Parker created and maintained in yester-years, and is well aware of the pitfalls Gilbert has experienced recently.

The latter are similar to neighboring-Mesquite: Declined participation, financial struggles in keeping teaching positions (which matters when it comes to him hiring assistant coaches) and struggling to keep up with the "big boys" in the Chandler and Tempe district schools of late.

"Gilbert's had challenges with keeping kids and being on the same playing level with the bigger dogs," he said Tuesday evening. "I'm definitely aware of the mountain in front of me, but I think the administration is supportive and willing to help.

"It'll be an ongoing challenge to steer the ship in the right direction and do some things a little different. That's going to take some time, it won't happen overnight, but if a foundation is there and kids will see changes and things to be excited about. If you can keep those kids, you definitely have a shot. It's definitely a challenge."

He'll teach at the school next year, though what specifics have yet to be determined. The same can be said for his assistants, candidates with whom he plans to have conversations with in the next two weeks, though he plans to oversee the Tigers' defense.

"I have a philosophy and that's not going to change, but schemes will depend on personnel," he said. "It's not going to be a revamp, but you can't be so stubborn as to put yourself in position to fail."

His first defense will be keeping kids at Gilbert, an easy partnership to winning when it comes to ratcheting up rivalries with, say, Mesquite and Highland.

"It gives a chance to re-charge the rivalry a bit," he said. "It didn't need much but it could always get taken up a notch."

 

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