URBANA – Nathan Watson is officially two weeks into his new gig as the head football coach at Urbana.
In that time, he has learned what many of his predecessors knew. First, old habits are hard to break. Second, the Tigers have enough skill-position talent to give opponents a few things to think about. Finally, the biggest question mark surrounds the play of the offensive and defensive lines.
And while it appears the status quo remains in play at Urbana, Watson is trying to break a cycle of poor seasons. The Tigers have won three games combined in the last four seasons.
"For the most part, they've bought in," Watson said. "I definitely feel like they believe in us. I'm just trying to get them to break some of those bad habits from the years past. We just have to teach them and coach 'em up."
Watson, formerly the defensive coordinator at Champaign Central and previously a head coach at Arcola, inherits some offensive talent. Strong-armed quarterback Trey Russell could be a dual threat. Receiver Kyle Clevenger, with a 6-foot-4 frame, makes an inviting target. The running back position is anchored by four players, but one of the most promising players is senior Fenton Flowers, currently battling a shoulder ailment.
"If we can give (Russell) time, he can allow us to do a whole lot more than I've ever had a high school quarterback do," Watson said. "The question is, can we give him time?"
If there's a bankable commodity for Watson in his first season, it is Clevenger. He'll be a receiver and tight end on offense, and on defense ... well, let's let Watson explain.
"Clevenger is – you're not going to believe this – sometimes a (defensive lineman), sometimes a linebacker and sometimes a safety," Watson said. "I'm telling you the truth. Whatever it takes to win, that's where he's going to go."
What to watch
Three reasons Urbana has reason to be optimistic heading into the 2009 football season:
1. League of his own
The Tigers have an all-around weapon in 6-foot-4 senior Kyle Clevenger, a receiver on offense who will play all over the field on defense.
2. Kill with skill
Quarterback Trey Russell has a strong arm and good speed, and he'll have options at running back, including promising senior Fenton Flowers.
3. New enthusiasm
Recent seasons have been rough, but Nathan Watson brings a fresh energy to the program, and given his history at Champaign Central, the Week 2 game against the Maroons should be spicy.