|Charlotte 49ers go young with Will Healy as new football coach|
|First-time FBS coach lauded as offensive mind|
|Published Wednesday, December 5, 2018 7:28 pm|
|PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY|
|UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois, from left with new football coach Will Healy, athletics director Mike Hill and Healy's son Eli.|
Will Healy doesn’t have the resume of a traditional FBS head coach.
The 33-year-old Eddie Robinson Award winner as national FCS coach of the year has three seasons of experience at Austin Peay and seven years as an assistant with Chattanooga, where he worked with quarterbacks and receivers, as well passing game and recruiting coordinator. Healy, the second head coach in Charlotte 49ers history, steps in as a first-time FBS coach but knows something about eradicating losing ways. He joined Austin Peay in 2016, and snapped their 29-game losing streak—the nation’s longest—in 2017. The Governors went 8-4 that season and 5-6 the next, their first consecutive five-win seasons since 1984-85.
“Charlotte is so different than what I took over three years ago at Austin Peay,” Healy said. “These guys know how to win football games. You went from an opportunity where you hoped you could win to now they expect to win. The foundation has been laid to take the next step and do it in a hurry.”
The 49ers initially offered the position to former James Madison coach Mike Houston, but withdrew the offer on Nov. 30, as he wanted to pursue other options in addition to considering Charlotte. He was hired by East Carolina.
Healy noted he knew he needed to spend time with Charlotte’s administration to convince them he was their guy.
“I knew the only chance I had was if I got in front of them, because if you look at resumes and you are going to compare this guy’s resume to this guy’s resume, I am not winning that battle,” he said. “I had to sell a vision, a culture, a relationship, a passion, an energy that you can’t always do over the phone.”
Said 49ers Chancellor Philip Dubois: “One of the nation’s youngest FBS programs will be led by one of the youngest FBS coaches in the country.”
Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill stressed the importance of hiring someone who is a “proven recruiter,” which Healy showed as recruiting coordinator in Chattanooga and as a head coach with Austin Peay. Healy’s 2017 recruiting class with the Governors was ranked first in the nation by attracting talent to a program that was ranked dead last in Division I. He inherits a better situation in Charlotte than the one he accepted in Texas, as the 49ers rebounded from the worst season in program history 1-11 in 2017 to 5-7 this year.
Hill also stressed the importance of hiring a “great teacher and someone who is a developer of talent.” Charlotte needs someone with Healy’s experience with quarterbacks, a position the 49ers have struggled with since making the transition from FBS to FCS. A couple of his pupils were B.J. Coleman, who was drafted by Green Bay in 2012, and Jacob Huesman, a three-time Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
“Everybody who is in this program has a clean start,” Healy said. “If you were an all-conference player, that’s awesome. Be an all-conference player for our staff. If you were benchwarmer and you want to get playing time, here is the perfect time. For me, the quarterback situation is the exact same way. If you watch any level of football, if you are good at quarterback, you have a much better chance to be successful.”
Dubois referred to the hires made by Hill, 50 as a “youth movement” since he replaced Judy Rose in the spring. Men’s basketball coach Ron Sanchez, 41, was his first hire in March. Brad Lambert, who is 20 years older than Healy and Charlotte’s inaugural football coach, was the first head coach fired under Hill, which he did prior to the last game of the season at Florida Atlantic. Lambert’s last season was his best in the school’s FBS era, taking the 49ers 5-7 overall, 3-5 in Conference USA (22-48 overall). However, at both the FBS and FCS levels, the 49ers have never finished above .500. Charlotte had three five-win seasons under Lambert (2013 and 2014 in FCS; 2018 in FBS).
Hill noted Dec. 19, early signing day for recruits, as a tentative deadline for hiring a coach. He beat it with two weeks to spare, and expects Healy to be an integral part of recruiting immediately.
“That was really a worst-case scenario in our minds,” Hill said. “We’re excited to have a chance to get Will in here now and have an opportunity to take a look at our commitments, really to get out on the road, bring some kids in here, assess our talent level, and also to meet with our coaches, and to build a staff.”
Said Healy: “We’ll see what’s on this roster and make sure we recruit guys that we feel like meet our culture and our scheme moving forward, but we’re going to do whatever it takes to win immediately with the guys we have, and then try to meet some areas of improvement.”
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