We spoke with North Florida Christian football coach Brent Hill about the biggest adjustments from coaching in Alabama to now in Florida, a dynamic duo, and the 2021 version of the Eagles in year one at the helm.
Q: This is obviously your first season at North Florida Christian after a successful tenure at Opp High School in Alabama. What has been the biggest adjustment, if any, from coaching in Alabama to now in Florida?
A: I started in Memphis, Tennessee, and then went to Opp, Alabama, and, of course, now I am in Tallahassee, Florida. Each area has some things different (style of play), but it also has similarities. The biggest change is adjusting to different personnel. For instance, here we have a lot of skill players but not a lot of linemen in size or experience. So, we had to adjust our offense to the personnel.
Q: The combo of sophomore QB JP Pickles and junior WR Traylon Ray has been an impactful one this season for your team so far. What have you seen in both that makes their connection so good?
A: JP Pickles played a very limited amount of QB last year due to an experienced QB, Brayden Phillips, ahead of him last year. So, we had a young man that didn’t get a ton of reps but had a great attitude and work ethic. He has handled the change in the offense well but has also worked extremely hard and has been coachable.
Traylon Ray is as gifted as they come. He was kind of in the shadows of a great player that played here last year as well in Drae McCray. Both Brayden and Drae graduated, so it was an opportunity for someone new to step up and lead. Traylon has done that exactly. He is extremely gifted and a three-sport athlete. I have been so impressed in his humble attitude, encouraging spirit to his team, and his desire to lead by actions as well.
Q: Who are some players on defense that you have seen take a noticeable jump from the offseason to now?
A: Defensively, we have had a few people really jump out. Ashton Gainer is doing an excellent job as a sophomore. He plays ILB, OLB, and anywhere we ask. Brice Google has also been a nice addition to the team. He plays ILB and has been a joy to coach also.
Q: What has impressed you most about this Eagles team so far in year one at North Florida Christian?
A: The number one thing about the NFC Eagles of 2021 is the ability to continue to fight and lay it all out on the field. We may not be the biggest team this year, but they have worked hard and refuse to give up.
Written by: Matt Melton