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I got a phone call today from Mike Holcomb. Great guy and one of the greatest HS football coaches of all time in our state. Here is a column on "THE FIRM."


Smith, Smith, Coverdale and Holcomb. The Firm. Specifically, the four names are Homer Smith, Chuck Smith, Andrew Coverdale, and Mike Holcomb.

I hear that expression several times through the season and every now and then during the offseason. John Arn (our former oline coach and defensive coordinator) came up with the phrase but I think Shawn Thompson (the defensive coordinator before John Arn) was the first to announce that the way to get me to do something was to call Chuck Smith, tell him, and Chuck would call me and make me do it.

My coaches claim that if an idea does not come from “the firm.” I am not going to do it. Of course, they are wrong! But, I will admit those four guys are great coaches and yes, they are great resources when I have a question.

I never met Homer Smith, but he is regarded as one of the greatest offensive minds in the history of the game. He held several positions, including the offensive coordinator at both UCLA and Alabama. He was also the head coach at West Point in the 1970s. Coach Smith passed away in April of 2011. Coach Smith put together a number of manuals on football, coaching, and teaching. I have most of them. His ability to explain football concepts and the teaching of the game are incredible. He has one complete manual devoted to practicing football. And, you can apply the information in his manuals to any offensive system.

In 2005, Fleming had the best team they had put on the field in my 17 seasons here. Jordan Fritz was their QB and we were coming off a 1-9 season. Our offensive gameplan came straight from Homer Smith’s concepts. Our kid’s executed the game plan to near perfection and we won a game that many thought would be a blow out loss for us. Some times in preparing for an opponent, when I see a coach being creative in getting numbers/players across the midline, I immediately think of Coach Smith. If a young guy wants to learn the game of football, I would get my hands on everything written by Homer Smith.

The other Smith is Chuck Smith who I have written about before. I regard Chuck as one of the best defensive coaches and high school head coaches in the history of the state, winning 5 state titles at Boyle County. What he did with the LBs at UK was also outstanding. Besides being a great coach, Chuck’s philosophy on football and people are consistent with mine. I call and ask Chuck football questions. But, most of the time when I call him it is about dealing with people- staff, players, administration, etc. I even called Chuck to ask him if writing this column was a good idea. As you might have figured out, he said yes.

Andrew Coverdale is the offensive coordinator at Trinity HS in Louisville. When we were getting ready to play Breathitt County in the 2003 Recreation Bowl, Coach Coverdale was kind enough to let us use his 2002 state championship video versus Louisville Male. Male and Breathitt ran similar defenses and I wanted to see how he attacked that defense. His qb was Brian Brohm. Ours was Dustin Grutza. We got a lot of good ideas from that video. Dustin and our kids executed that gameplan exceptionally well in the Rec Bowl versus Breathitt. Through the years, when I have had ideas and questions about offensive concepts, Coach Coverdale has been a great resource.

Mike Holcomb is the head football coach at Breathitt County HS. Coach Holcomb has lead the Bobcats to 3 state titles. Most people believe when Hal Mumme came to UK in 1997, that is what started the advent of the spread passing game in the state of Kentucky. While Coach Mumme is most definitely a recognized guru of the spread passing game, Mike Holcomb had the Bobcats throwing the ball and winning back to back state titles in 1995 and 1996. Mumme, Mike Leach, Tony Franklin, & Chris Hatcher are outstanding football coaches who helped make KY HS Football more wide open. But, the FIRST to make it go were Coach Holcomb and Mike Whitaker at Leslie County who had a pretty good QB named Tim Couch.

Because of my experiences playing QB in High School, we have NEVER had a 5 step pass play from under center on any team I have coached. The timing required and the pass protection ability needed by the oline is tough on a HS player. Whenever we had a 5 step pass play called in HS, I knew I was going to get blasted. As I got older and matured, I realized if I am going to get hit, I might as well complete it and I quit worrying about it.

When we finally put in a 5 step pass package at Mason County, we did so from the shotgun to help with the protection issues. Coach Holcomb was the coach I went to for help in setting up our 5 step passing concepts. I don’t know anyone that has a better grasp of the passing game than Mike Holcomb.

Now, is it true that I only take ideas from the “Firm” as my staff likes to complain? Absolutely not. Most of my decisions are really OUR decisions. There are times that I do pull rank and make the call as the head coach, but not as much as you might think. But, when I do go along with one of their ideas that I am not crazy about, I just tell them to “Make it work.” And, yes, I got that from Chuck.