Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Origins of the Veer at Middlesboro High School

Well, I just had the honor of talking with former Middlesboro Head Football Coach "Chalk" Stapleton. I say it is an honor because you'll not find a more courteous and informed gentleman with which to talk football. Coach Stapleton coached during the 70's and 80's and is one of the many reasons Middlesboro has the 7th overall winningest football program in the state of Kentucky.

Middlesboro has ran the Veer since 1973. There were about three or four seasons where the program went away from the Veer during the late 80's and early 90's... But it has been the main offense with those exceptions. This struck me as a bit unusual. Most coaches who come in as head coach want to bring their system with them. Middlesboro has avoided this as they seem to hire the H.C. from within the pool of assistant coaches or former assistants. The old maxim "don't mess with success" might also contribute with the Veer's popularity as well. After talking with current H.C. (and winningest M.H.S. coach) Coach Roark and former A.D. Wilson, I was able to deduce that the Veer had to have arrived at M.H.S. sometime in the early 70's... And that meant it probably came in during Coach Stapleton's tenure.

I began the question and answer portion of our conversation by asking him how the Veer found it's way to Middlesboro. As I had suspected, Coach Stapleton had indeed been the first coach to install the Veer at Middlesboro. He said that he and another mountain football great Coach Bill Adams ran the Wishbone with great success for several years while coaching together at Pineville High School (Pineville Kentucky). Later, after becoming the Head Football Coach across the county at Middlesboro High School, Coach Stapleton began looking into the Splitback Veer offense and it's brand of option football for his offensive attack. Coach Stapleton and his staff traveled to and conferred with several high school and college programs which were running the Veer in order to understand it's finer points... I believe this was around 1973 and 1974 (my notes from the conversation weren't the best - I may have gotten that wrong.) He attributed the origin of the Veer to a High School football coach in Texas, although the University of Houston gets most of the credit for it's origin.

Coach Stapleton said there were two primary reasons behind his interest in the Veer. The first he gave was that it got you to the perimeter without having to pull any linemen. He "wasn't that great" at getting his guards to pull, so the Wing T was out. Second, he liked the fact he could have a strong running game without having big offensive linemen.

When asked about his run/pass ratio, Coach Stapleton replied "we passed whenever they loaded it up" (the line of scrimmage.) While he had a passing tree like everyone else, he favored play action to the tight end. "We would see if the secondary would run with us, and if they didn't, we would go deep." Coach Stapleton also mentioned an affinity to running screens and draws as well.

I asked Coach Stapleton what advice he might give concerning the offense. He replied, "find some high school coaches running the offense and swap ideas with them. I had several coaches I used to call twice a week during the season... Find out what they were doing that was working... Tell them what was working for me." He mentioned coaching against Ken Sparks (current Carson-Newman H.C.) while he was at Farragut High School (Knoxville, TN). I am not sure if Coach Sparks was one of his weekly calls, but I did gather they conferred once Coach Sparks was at Carson Newman and several of Coach Stapleton's players went on to play college ball at C.N.

The conversation drifted back and forth like this for the better part of an hour and a half. After I mentioned that the first coaching book I had bought was Homer Rice's book on the triple option (and that A.D. Wilson knew Coach Rice had some kind of Middlesboro connection), Coach Stapleton informed me that Coach Rice had married a young Ms. Rash from Middlesboro. Several people had mentioned Coach Rice used to visit Middlesboro fairly regularly in the past but weren't sure why. Now I knew that it was to visit family.

I thanked Coach Stapleton for his time and willingness to share a bit of the history of the Veer at M.H.S. He graciously offered to discuss the topic further at some later date, and you can be sure I'll take Coach up on his offer.

1 comment:

Zachary Ausmus said...

Very cool read. I graduated from MHS in 2011 and was fortunate enough to watch a lot of veer football.