After a superb eight-season run as the head coach for the WW/P-S football team, Todd Smith narrowed his focus last fall, serving as the offensive coordinator for Hopewell Valley.
Building on his success at WW/P-S, which saw him guide the Pirates to a 63-22 record from 2005 to 2012, Smith’s high-powered offense helped HoVal to the Central Jersey Group III title.
But while Smith enjoyed his stint with the Bulldogs, he missed being in charge.
“I was happy at HoVal and we had a lot of success but deep down inside I knew I wanted to be a head coach again,” said Smith.
So when Smith learned that the Hun School was looking for a new football coach, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I heard through the grapevine that the position was open and I applied,” said Smith.
“The interview process was rigorous. The headmaster, Jon Brougham, was fantastic, he was very warm and kind. We established a rapport.”
The feeling was apparently mutual and Smith, 36, got the job, taking over for interim head coach John Law, who guided the Raiders to a 1-6 record in 2013.
This week, Smith hits the field looking to get the Raiders back on the winning track as the team starts preseason practice.
“I am excited, I can’t wait,” said Smith. “The public schools get the shot to start a week before and they had time all summer to work on 7-on-7s. I miss that stuff; I am ready to get going.”
Smith was excited by what he saw around Hun as he got to know the school. “I had never been to Hun, it was great to experience it,” said Smith.
“It had a different vibe from public school. The kids are really upbeat. It is a smaller setting; you could see a rapport between the teachers and the kids. Everyone said hello, even if they didn’t know you. Everybody seems really supportive of each other.”
Despite his busy schedule which also includes teaching fifth-grade in West Windsor and coaching track at WW/P-S, Smith was able to spend a lot of time at Hun this spring to get acquainted with his new players.
“I was over there after track,” said Smith, a 2001 graduate of The College of New Jersey. “I got to work out with them and meet the guys living on campus. We had a couple of meetings. My message to them was that we were going to build the team on hard work and dedication and that we were going to make the most out of the summer time and the offseason to showcase their abilities in the fall.”
To that end, Smith held a week-long mini camp earlier this summer. “I wanted the kids to come in and learn the terminology and the base stuff,” said Smith.
“It went well. The kids had fun and developed a rapport with each other. We had some 7-on-7s against other teams and I thought we held our own.”
As he looks ahead to preseason, Smith is looking to fine-tune things physically and mentally.
“We will be doing 2-a-days,” said Smith, noting former HoVal assistant Nick Steffner will be his offensive coordinator and that Law will return to coach both lines.
“We don’t have a lot of numbers so we have to be careful. We will work on fitness and tempo. We will do our fair share of hitting but health is the No. 1 priority. We will be doing a lot of film work, chalk talk, and walkthroughs.”
Smith, who is known for his voluminous playbook and developing high-powered offensive attacks, believes he can implement his full system over the next few weeks.
“We should be able to run the whole offense,” maintained Smith, noting the senior running back Christopher Sharp has already established himself as a star.
“You need a lot of pieces for everything in the playbook to come out and we have a good running quarterback, wide receivers, and offensive line. Sharp is a good starting point, he just committed to Virginia.”
While Smith faces a challenge in getting things back on the right track after last fall’s frustrating campaign, he doesn’t believe that things are desperate by any means.
“The first thing I did was watch the film from every game last year,” said Smith, who guided WW/P-S to three 10-win seasons and seven state playoff appearances in his eight seasons there.
“The record was not reflective of how well they played, they lost a couple of a games by a few points and they were hurt by turnovers. We will focus on the little things so they won’t turn into big things.”
With Hun kicking off its 2014 campaign by playing at Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on September 20, Smith is looking forward to a big fall.
“It comes down to how fast they learn everything,” said Smith. “Our goal is to play mistake free football, have fun, and win the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League).”