Tom Matukewicz chooses 'family' for his staff
One of the first tasks for a new football coach is to hire his offensive and defensive coordinator. Southeast Missouri State University's new coach Tom Matukewicz's choice for defensive coordinator was his best friend, Bryce Saia, and his former player Sherard Poteete for offensive coordinator.
These three men are good friends, Matukewicz said after his team practice Wednesday. They are excited to be working together. The coaches reminisced on how they met years ago, how are they implementing new systems as well as the process they have put together to make the players better student-athletes.
"Well Coach Saia I've known the longest, and his father, Tom Saia, recruited me out of high school. Bryce is a couple of years older than me," Matukewicz said. "I went to play for him at a junior college called Butler County Community College. I got injured (and) he [Tom Saia] brought me on to coach. Then Bryce Saia and I went to Fort Hays State to be student coaches together and we've been together the longest, he knows so much about me, I've got to have him next to me. I could get fired if he told everything I did when I was in college. I've been with him ever since, we're more than just colleagues when you've known somebody that long."
They have coached together at many stops along the way to Southeast, including Fort Hays State, Coffeyville Community College, Southern Illinois and Toledo before becoming Redhawks.
"We've been coaching on and off together for the last 20 years," Saia said. "Two years ago Tuke got the defensive coordinator job at the University of Toledo, and I came with him to Toledo to coach the safeties. Then from Toledo, Tuke got offered the head coaching position here, and he asked me to come with him as his defensive coordinator. And we're basically like brothers, so this is an easy decision. We were both born in the state of Missouri, so it's kind of like coming home. So this was a really easy decision."
Poteete met coach Matukewicz while Poteete was a quarterback at SIU-Carbondale. Matukewicz was on the coaching staff lead by current Minnesota coach Jerry Kill.
"Going back to my days as I was finishing up at Southern Illinois where I played football was my first experience meeting Coach Tuke," Poteete said. "Coach Tuke came in with Coach (Jerry) Kill, who is now the head coach at Minnesota University. They came in as I was finishing up. I was always around and got to know the coaches, got finished playing and went into the coaching profession, just kind of hung around and got to know those guys, Coach Kill and his staff and just kind of seeking knowledge and coaching summer camps. We just got a connection in how the coaching paths cross.
"I'm a northern Oklahoma guy and Coach Saia is from that southern Kansas-northern Oklahoma border right there," Poteete said." Paths have just crossed throughout the years. I was recently the head coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, and just recruiting, coaching, and Coach Saia's got tons of family in Oklahoma, where my home is. My wife is also a southern Illinois girl (Pinckneyville), so with this opportunity Coach Tuke and [Athletic Director Mark] Alnutt have provided [we can] be closer to some family" Poteete said.
Poteete's quarterback coach SIU, Jim Zembrowski, introduced the coaches at those summer camps. Zembrowski is now the quarterbacks coach at Minnesota.
"This is much more like a family, this is a family business, not just a football business," Matukewicz said. "These guys care about each other. I know we're going to have some issues. We're going to have some adversity, some serious adversity at some point this season, and I wanted to make sure that the people we had together weren't going to turn on each other. They are going to support each other. That's what we have here."
Saia and Poteete already have had the challenge of installing new systems with the players who were coached to play in the systems of the previous staff. Saia installed a 3-4 base defense from the 4-3 base defense from last year, meaning that instead of four defensive linemen and three linebackers there will be three defensive linemen and four linebackers.
"The 'bought-in' factor is off the charts," Saia said. "In today's college football, if you're not in the Top 25 BCS program, it's easier to recruit defensive lineman and linebackers and that change isn't always up to me. I looked at our personal when we got up here, and I believed we could run a 3-4, and when you look at college football today it's better to run a 3-4. That's the best thing to do with all the tempo, perimeter game, the answer is a 3-4, but I had to make sure they could prove they could run the system and they bought in and there the best group of guys I've ever worked with."
Southeast will run a spread offense this season after using a run-oriented option offense under the former coaching staff.
"When you come in you want to stick to things that you believe in, some of your roots and some things you were good at in the past" Poteete said. "So we wanted to be multiple-formation spread offense. Now, you still have to run the football. I think any team that has success still runs the football and runs it with success. We have to have that mindset that we still have to out-physical our opponent upfront, but we also want to evolve where we can beat people with the vertical passing game."
Poteete believes that the Redhawks have as many as five quality running backs on the team and wants to get all of them carries. The passing game will rely on wide receivers and Paul McRoberts as well as quarterback Kyle Snyder.
These coaches are building something new in the Redhawk football program, and no one is more excited then players.
"You know it's a game, they're not dodging bullets out here. If where are in the convenience store, we are in the toy aisle," Saia said. "The players want to come out and have fun."