Perkins has built consistency at Austin

Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins watches his players during the FCA’s 7on7 tournament at Point Mallard on Thursday. Photo by Jeronimo Nisa of the Decatur Daily
Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins watches his players during the FCA’s 7on7 tournament at Point Mallard on Thursday. Photo by Jeronimo Nisa of the Decatur Daily

By Caleb Suggs

These days in high school football, longevity isn't something that's common.

Coaches come and go, and it's rare to see someone stay more than 10 years.

This offseason, the area said goodbye to one of its longest-tenured head coaches when Decatur's Jere Adcock announced his retirement after 26 seasons at the helm of the Red Raiders' program.

"I consider Coach Adcock a friend. We went head to head many times and while we were definitely competitors, we also developed a friendship," said Austin head football coach Jeremy Perkins. "I have a lot of respect for him and it's not going to be the same with him not on the other sideline."

With Adcock's retirement, Perkins now becomes the longest tenured head coach in the Daily's coverage area.

Perkins took over the program in 2010. Since then he's compiled a record of 90-57 with four region championships (tied for most among all Austin coaches), a state quarterfinals appearance and two state semifinals appearances.

Austin has always been known for having talent. However, Perkins has built consistency in a program that, in the decade prior to his arrival, won more than five games only once.

"Every year is different, but the consistency in the program has stayed," Perkins said. "We've worked to develop, from seventh grade all the way up, good people with good character. That includes not just players, but our coaching staff as well."

"We've learned that if you develop good people, they'll be in the right place doing the right things," Perkins added.

Building consistency in a 7A program is tough. Austin faces constant turnover each and every year, meaning that building depth is key in sustaining success.

"Having that next man up mentality is huge and we try to rep as many guys as possible," Perkins said. "You have to have both eyes on the present, but you have to pay attention to the future as well. We spend a lot of time working with our young guys so that, when the time comes, they'll be ready to step in."

Coming into this season. Austin again faces the need to replace multiple starters on offense and defense

The biggest issue will be replacing quarterback De'Air Young, a two-year starter for the Black Bears.

Who will be the new signal caller has yet to be decided. Senior Judd Bailey and junior JL Davis are battling it out with sophomore Qadir Lyle also in the mix.

This isn't Perkins' first quarterback battle at Austin and he has a system built to help decide who the right guy should be.

"Those guys are getting equal reps, both with the first-team offense and the second," said Perkins. "We just let them battle it out over a long period of time to see who will be the most consistent and who will give our offense the best chance at success."

The Black Bears do know several of the players they'll be relying on.

Junior running backs Gavin Fuqua and Kenneth Joshua Jr. are back after contributing as sophomores. Fuqua rushed for 793 yards and nine touchdowns last season, while Joshua came on late.

Seniors Nick Crayton and Achilles Woods are looking to take huge strides at receiver and defensive line respectively. Perkins said the two have been "racking up college offers" this offseason. UAB, Memphis, South Alabama, Samford and Austin Peay are just a few of those offers.

Those are just some of the key players that will play a pivotal role in Austin's success this fall. And because of the team's next man up mentality, Perkins said the team's goal this summer is less about figuring out who will play, and more about execution and fundamentals.

"We want to build on the progression that we've already started this offseason. We want our guys to have a better understanding of what to do and how to do it," Perkins said. "There's going to be a lot of work on fundamentals and scheme, making sure our guys know our offense, defense, special teams better so that they'll be prepared for the different situations they will face."