Brandon Smith’s move to defensive coordinator for the South Warren football team happened in a flash.
The job opened on a Sunday last season, and practice was scheduled to begin the following Tuesday.
When coach Mark Nelson offered Smith the position, the former Western Kentucky quarterback knew he wanted it, and he knew how he wanted to coach. But Nelson said that’s typical for Smith, who’s always the man with a plan.
So far, Smith’s mission has been to focus on the details and discipline on defense. It’s paid dividends for the Spartans (5-0), who’ve outscored their opponents 205-3 and allowed less than 100 total yards all year.
“He brought in pride in defense,” Nelson said. “Those kids have bought in to what he’s doing. He has them so excited about being out there on that team. Those 11 starters are like a brotherhood in that close-knit group. He’s what makes them go.”
After Smith finished his playing career at WKU in 2009, all he wanted to do was find a job, he said.
He found it with South Warren, where he coached outside linebackers and quarterbacks while the school played a junior-varsity schedule in its first year of existence.
“Really, the difference with them is that they’re so hungry,” Smith said. “They haven’t ever experienced success. It’s a new school. We don’t have an established tradition, but we’ve talked about it, and they’re constantly on a mission.”
Taking over the defense was still an adjustment for Smith, despite his pedigree. His father is Chuck Smith, who led Boyle County to five consecutive state titles from 1999-2003 and was a defensive assistant at the University of Kentucky for eight seasons until 2012.
That lineage, coupled with his experience at quarterback, makes Smith an ideal candidate to lead a strong defensive unit, said former WKU coach David Elson, now the defensive coordinator at New Mexico State.
“His dad is a phenomenal person and coach,” Elson said in an email to the Daily News. “I think the fact that Brandon played QB is another asset for him as a defensive coach. He understands what offenses are looking at and trying to do. More important than scheme/knowledge of the game is the fact that Brandon is as fierce a competitor as I have ever been around, which means he is going to always be striving to outwork his opponent.
“That competitiveness and his toughness will rub off on his players, and they will take on his mentality, which in my opinion is what playing great defense is about more than anything else.”
Smith has found that his experience at quarterback helps him see defenses from a different perspective, he said.
He often begins preparing for the next opponent over the weekend, Nelson said, and takes a meticulous approach to his studies.
“I am pretty competitive,” Smith said. “I get a goal in mind, and I’m almost obsessive about it. I guess you could take that as a good quality or a bad quality. I try to instill that in the kids.
“I really never envisioned that the quarterback side would help me so much. Honestly, I kind of always look at it like, ‘The offense would do this.’ “
To this point, offenses have done very little on Smith’s defense.
The Spartans gave up their first points of the season on a field goal Friday against Hart County, but have unofficially limited their opponents to 91 total yards this year, including minus-94 rushing yards.
“He’s a really strict coach,” said senior defensive lineman Adrian Middleton, who credits Smith for helping him make a verbal commitment to Kentucky. “He wants you to be great and work hard and play to your best.”
While Middleton learned those life lessons from Smith, the coach learned about striving for greatness from his father, he said.
With Chuck Smith at the helm, Brandon led Boyle County to three state titles and a 55-5 record in a four-year span at quarterback. Chuck is now a defensive consultant at Bardstown High School.
“All that perfectionist, attention to detail, competitiveness – that’s all a direct result from him,” Brandon Smith said. “I still call him from time to time for advice, so he’s helped me out a ton. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
No matter how Smith landed at South Warren, the Spartans are just glad he’s there.
“He’s instilled an attitude on our team,” senior linebacker Drew Wilken said. “We just bought into everything he’s saying. He’s teaching us great, and if we keep listening, we’re going to be really good.”
A few statistical points from week five:
•The 13 football teams in the Daily News’ coverage area are a combined 35-28. The five schools in Warren County are a combined 16-8, including undefeated South Warren and Bowling Green.
•Bowling Green had to use a late rally to beat McCallie School (Tenn.) 40-36 for its 34th straight win, and the Purples didn’t do themselves many favors on special teams. They gave up two kickoff return touchdowns, took a safety on a botched punt snap and failed on three point-after attempts.
•Warren East junior Eli Brown, a Vanderbilt commit, made an unexpected move to quarterback Friday and led the Raiders’ with 338 rushing yards and five TDs in an overtime win over Hopkinsville. But Antonio Shields also rushed for 106 yards, giving East 444 yards on the ground. Since rushing for negative yardage in their opener, the Raiders are averaging nearly 350 rushing yards per game in their last four contests.
•Brown’s offensive outburst was just one part of the “night of the running back” in the area. Greenwood’s DeMarcus Potter rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns, and Bowling Green’s Blue Tisdale had 194 yards and two scores. ACS’ Charlie Trapp rushed for 164 yards and two TDs, marking his fifth straight game with 100-plus yards.
•Russellville leads Class 1A in points scored with 247 after beating Todd County Central 54-6 on Saturday. The Panthers are averaging 49.4 points and 364.4 yards per game. They’re 5-0 for the first time since 1984.
•Glasgow suffered a 35-13 defeat at Somerset on Friday, its first loss of the season. It was the most points allowed by the Scotties since beating Elizabethtown 48-47 on Oct. 1, 2010.