When Justin Ridge left Greenback School for William Blount High School, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Jason Hicks stepped right into the role of head coach.
Now, he is running the show in full pads for the first time as the Cherokees wrapped up their first week of spring football practice Friday.
"We do it a little bit different this year," Hicks said. "We don't coach at all during our team period. We have our technology guy video it, and then the kids will come in during lunch during a 30- to 35-minute block, and we'll watch it and coach them then. Everything else is fairly similar."
The basic scheme of what the team will run hasn't changed, but there is a slight change in philosophy. Hicks wants to speed everything up.
"That's our thing this year is we want to go as fast as we can, run as many plays as we can," Hicks said.
The first-year head coach models a lot of his coaching philosophy after that of former Oregon Ducks head coach and current Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, including a phrase the team adopted as their own, which is "win the day."
Hicks brought the "win the day" philosophy to the team while serving as offensive coordinator under Ridge.
"We had a horrible practice one day my first year here, two years ago," he said. "I was telling the kids, Chip Kelly talks about win the day, and this is what it means and all that. I just kind of left it at that."
The phrase took on a life of its own, and last year the letters "WTD" were stamped across shirts and chanted from the stands during games. This season, it is printed on every one of the team's new practice jerseys.
"I think every coach realizes you've got to be better today before you can do anything tomorrow," Hicks said. "Win the day is an easy way to get my kids to understand that, and they bought into it. Coaches don't come up with anything new. We steal anything from everybody anyway, so it's not like it's anything revolutionary."
Greenback loses a deep senior class, which included five all-state players, running back Richard Seymour, offensive lineman Michael Clune, defensive lineman Landon Disney, linebacker Justin Kuhn and defensive back and quarterback Eric Anderson.
"We did lose some good kids, but we've got some good kids coming back," Hicks said. "The five kids that are starting up front for us, four of them have played a ton of football over the last two years. The one kid that hasn't played as much is a sophomore, and he's a really hard worker, and he's worked in the offseason in the weight room and stuff."
Hicks also said he believes he may have some skill position players that can match up with any the school has ever had.
"The kid that's going to start at (tailback) for us this year may end up being the best running back we've ever had here, Jordan Anderson," he said. "Hunter Cope, I sit and watch that kid grow every day. I mean, he's power cleaning over 225 pounds now, and last year he couldn't lift 225. He may end up being one of the best receivers we've had here."
While losing quarterback Eric Anderson looks like a blow to the team, the team is in exactly the same position it was in one season ago when it needing a quarterback to replace starter Hogan Goodson before settling on Anderson, who played wide receiver the season before.
"Eric came in and ended up accounting for 38 or 36 touchdowns," Hicks said. "I would have never thought he was going to do that. We ended up changing some stuff that we do schematically from the year Hogan was here because of what Eric was able to do well. Whoever ends up starting, whatever we're good at, we'll end up adapting our offense and play to those strengths."
Dylan Jones, Samuel McCloud and freshman Hunter Willis are competing for the quarterback position right now. Jones, who suffered an ACL tear last season, and McCloud both competed for the job last season as well.
Greenback will scrimmage at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Pigeon Forge.
"I scheduled them because coach (Scott) Meadows and I got the jobs at about the same time," Hicks said. "He was at Catholic and William Blount before that and Alcoa before that. He's been successful everywhere he's been. He's a good football coach. Pigeon Forge is going to be good, and it's a challenge for us. I hope to be better then than we are today."