Over his past year away from dark film rooms and college sidelines, new Carver football coach Reggie Barlow took some time to reflect.
After leaving Alabama State, where he spent eight seasons as head coach and two as quarterbacks coach, he wanted his next job — wherever that might be — to be somewhere he felt needed and appreciated. Despite having only a brief stint as an assistant coach at the high school level, Carver felt like that place.
“I took a year off and just reflected and thought about everything,” he said. “I got myself recharged. I just believe that you have to want who wants you. (Carver’s) administration showed that they wanted me here. Coaching high school was something I had intended on looking at down the road, but an opportunity like Carver, with its pride and tradition, it was just the right time.”
Barlow knew about Carver’s reputation prior to being contacted about the job. He had recruited the area and, in fact, coached former Tigers and current Cleveland Browns star Isaiah Crowell during his two years at Alabama State. When Carver principal Christopher Lindsey got in touch with Barlow through a handful of mutual contacts in the coaching profession, Barlow said he took immediate interest.
He accepted the job near the end of December, less than a month after it was announced former coach Joe Kegler would not return as head coach for a fourth season. Kegler had won 28 games in three seasons, earning two region titles and advancing to the state quarterfinals in 2013. But Carver failed to escape the first round each of the past two seasons, and expectations have become such that back-to-back first-round exits didn’t cut it. Barlow knows this, and that’s one reason he was eager to take on the challenge.
“These guys have been good for a long time,” he said. “I think every coach wants to come into a situation where there are high expectations.”
That doesn’t mean coming in and reinventing the wheel, though, he said. The Tigers have been successful for a reason, and he expects that many things during his tenure will look similar to before.
He wants an up-tempo offense with quick passes on the perimeter, easy reads to make it as simple as possible for the quarterback to run. He likes a hard-nosed and combative defense, utilizing the phrase “if it wiggles in front of you, hit it” to demonstrate his meaning.
“Those are things we live by,” he said. “But I think good coaches — you know, we all have a philosophy and what we’d like to do and how we’d like to do it, but I think all good coaches have to see the talent and what you have. I don’t foresee running a Wing-T or anything, but I want to evaluate the talent and go with that. Don’t reinvent the wheel. If it works and they’re comfortable, that’s what we want to do.”
The biggest challenge, Barlow said, will be the learning curve. He is used to getting football players who have already shown an elite ability to play the game. Now, he expects to be in a much more hands-on an educational role.
“A lot of high school kids may not pick up on it quite as fast as a college kid would,” he said. “That’ll be an adjustment. As far as my style and philosophy, though, that’s probably going to stay the same.”
Barlow has already heard from some of Carver’s former stars congratulating him on the job. He said he sent Crowell a message when it became clear he would get the job and received well wishes in return. Former Carver star and current Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner sent him a message saying he was happy for Barlow and excited about the future of the program.
There are still loose ends to tie up. Barlow will meet his players at a meeting on Tuesday and he wasn’t even sure yet how much his coaching supplement, which is paid out in addition to his physical education teacher’s salary, would be.
“I’m not thinking about that stuff right now,” he said. “Schools offer what they can. Finances are important, but I think it’s more important to take an opportunity where you can be accepted and successful. I’m just excited to be here.”