New Leopard head football coach Brad Chessir is back in De Queen with the intention of remaining longer than he did during his first stay.
Chessir began work at DHS March 2. Two weeks later the Arkansas Activities Association declared a dead period on extra-curricular activities that remains in effect.
Chessir returned to his family at Jonesboro. The family got bigger with the birth of son Parker on March 31. The Chessirs are now in the process of moving into their new home in De Queen.
“I loved my time in Jonesboro,” the coach said, “but Southwest Arkansas is home to me.”
Since March two De Queen football coaches have resigned their positions. Beau McCastlaine has moved in administration. Jonathon Lindsey has changed sports, moving to cross country. Two new coaches have been hired to complete the DHS staff: Nick Evans and Ethan Crocker.
Chessir explained that players and coaches will learn both offense and defense. “Every lineman will learn both sides of the ball. If you’ve played receiver, you’re going to learn the secondary as well,” he said. “Every coach will know what’s going on on both sides.”
The offensive coordinator is Evans who has been the OC at Camden Fairview for the last two years. He and Chessir were together on the staff at Nashville for three years.
“We have a past. When I got this job, I knew wanted to bring Evans,” Chessir said. “One of his strengths is his relationships with kids. He is a very intelligent coach who adjusts to game situations very well. He knows how to use kids to best advantage
“He’s a Brad Chessir guy. We share the same beliefs, the same vision for De Queen football. He’s good with outside the box thinking, attacking the other teams’ weaknesses. He will be the quarterback and running back coach as well.”
De Queen veteran Joseph Parson is making the transition from coaching the defensive line to coaching the offensive line. Second year coach Darren Horn will be the receivers coach.
Chessir has been a defensive coordinator his entire coaching career and will continue that role. “I will be the defensive line coach. I will bring my defense and philosophy,” Chessir said.
“Richard Bell, who has been defensive coordinator, will be the linebacker coach. He will be my right hand man on defense.
Crocker, who is coming to De Queen from Horatio, will be the coach of the secondary. “Before Horatio, he was at Mount Ida when they won a state championship,” Chessir noted.
The staff reflects Chessir’s belief in players getting bigger and stronger. “Bell has been the strength coach. He does a phenomenal job with the kids in the weight room. Evans has a very good background in strength and conditioning. Crocker is a big strength guy with a good background in weight training. As a staff, we’ve got a really strong background in strength and conditioning,” Chessir said.
“The high school staff will be involved with the junior high a lot. Everything will be taught the same. The junior high staff will be heavily involved with high school.”
Jason Barker remains the junior high coach assisted by David Smith and Peyton Covington. “Barker has been here a long time and brings a lot of experience to table,” Chessir said. “He has really bought in on changing the philosophy. He puts his heart and soul into the program.”
Chessir said two things are important at the junior high level: learning and having fun. “Success on the senior level depends on what happens at the junior level,” he noted.
One of Chessir’s basic beliefs is having a personal relationship with the players. He was just getting to know the Leopards when the dead period was imposed.
“I was here full time for two weeks. We were rolling. We had it going, the whole tempo, the energy,” Chessir said. “We were up to 91 on the senior roster before the virus hit.”
The ban on face to face contact with the athletes is a hindrance, but not a roadblock. “You’re not going to find anybody more positive than me in this situation. Obviously all this is out of our control,” the coach said. “It’s hard to keep building what you’ve started without face to face coaching.
“Our big focus is: how do we respond? It’s not just the kids; it’s hurting coaches as well.”
The spring semester was supposed to have been a time for the staff to become acquainted with Chessir’s system. Due to the shutdown, progress on that undertaking has been slowed. “We are bringing in all new offense and defense. We are in the process now of teaching the coaches,” Chessir said.
“Once we do that, we’ll start virtual coaching the players. We’re going to start providing video to them. It will be ourselves teaching on the white board with clips showing game action.”
When the shutdown was announced, the players were provided with information packets detailing what they can do on their own to maintain strength and speed. “They need to stay as active they can,” the coach said, “just stay in some kind of shape.”
Like all other coaches, Chessir is eager for the AAA to end the dead period. “I don’t know if it will be June 1, July 1 or Aug. 1,” he said.
“We’ve got different set of plans for when they get back. We’ll have to be smart about it. We will start about 50 percent and build slowly.”
The overriding question is: how much time will there be after the dead period ends until the start of the season?
“If we get the kids in June, we should have plenty of time. If we get them in July, we will have time, not necessarily be in a bind. If it’s in August, now you’re pushing it, but it’s possible,” the coach said.
The first concern is player safety. This means with a short pre-season practice period, adjustments will have to be made. “The longer we have to wait, the more we have to be simple early.”
Chessir is also big on community involvement. “We had a lot of things planned from March to the start of season. That’s been put on hold,” he said.
When the coronvirus scare is over, “We’re going to pick up where we left off, with more energy,” the coach said. “I look forward to representing the community. There will be some good to come from this adversity.”
In the meantime, patience is essential. “The biggest thing is to stay safe. We are going to follow all the proper guidelines,” Chessir said. “Kids text me asking when they can come back. It kills me not to be able to say for sure.”