About this time a year ago, Bobby Hall was set to make his big Biloxi debut.
“As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” in fact.
Always positive and energetic, Hall had big hopes — “worst to first,” he predicted to the Sun Herald last August — for an Indians program that had just three winning seasons in the previous 10. He saw plenty of athletes, which led to big optimism and, ultimately, a big letdown.
Biloxi won Hall’s debut 25-7 over Long Beach, but the debut came at a steep price as a number of Indians went down with injury.
Hall guided the Indians to a 3-1 non-region record. Once the Indians reached their Region 4-6A schedule, however, they sputtered to an 0-7 record. Biloxi’s 3-8 overall record was Hall’s worst in 32 years as a head coach, rivaling only a 4-6 season at Raleigh in 1981.
“I’m not going to talk big like I did last year,” Hall said in his office Friday. “I talked big and didn’t deliver.”
Last year’s struggles hit deep for a prideful coach who is 301-92 all-time at the high school level.
“Very humbling. Very. Not a little bit. A lot,” Hall said of last season. “It was extremely humbling and frustrating. And then once we had some injuries to go with some issues that we already had, it became extremely difficult. We just had to keep fighting and we did.
“I think a lot of what we went through last year will help us for this year, but it was extremely humbling, there’s no question.”
Making football fun again
So, how does Hall right the ship in Year 2?
Prior to his Biloxi debut, Hall made tightening up his defense a point of emphasis — which the Indians did, improving the scoring defense from 426 points allowed in 2014 to 311 last season. Unfortunately, the offense sagged at the same time, dropping from 292 points scored in John Shannon’s wide-open offense to 155.
Now Hall has turned his attention back to the Indians’ offense.
Hall has made a living coaching the triple option to perfection. In 30 of his 32 seasons, his quarterback has been under center. Not in 2016.
With former D’Iberville backup quarterback Tucker Thomas now at Biloxi, Hall is opening up his offense. Hall will still run the triple option. However, it’ll more closely resemble Willie Fritz’s offense at Tulane instead of the traditional ground attack.
“I’m 61 years old, going into my 39th season (overall) and my No. 1 philosophy on coaching is this: You better be able to adjust because if you don’t you’ll go extinct like the dinosaurs did centuries ago,” Hall said. “I try to stay on the cutting edge of football. I’m blessed that I have a son (West Georgia head coach Will Hall) who is an offensive wizard. We talk almost every day. And I have a great staff — a really good staff.”
Hall believes the change will make Biloxi’s offense explosive once again.
“There’s a lot of things you can do away from center that you can’t do as well under center,” Hall said. “Your screens and bubbles are much better from the gun. And it’s much easier to run the triple option from there than it is under center.”
Biloxi has some offensive firepower with All-Coast receiver Tim Jones returning, as well as running backs Nick Ross and Martel Turner. The Gridiron Indians have also added basketball standout Fred Ramsey-Thompson, who should take pressure off of Jones and become a big red zone target.
“I have reason for optimism. I really do,” Hall said. “I really think we will be good enough that when we tee the ball up on Friday nights we’ll feel like we have a chance. I really have hope. I really do.”
Fans will get a chance to see the new-look Indians on Friday when Biloxi travels to run-heavy Poplarville for a jamboree. The Indians will then face an explosive St. Stanislaus team Aug. 19 in the annual Shrimp Bowl.
WR Tim Jones, Biloxi: Jones has been one of Mississippi’s most productive receivers during his prep career. After catching 27 passes for 673 yards and six scores as a freshman, Jones broke onto the scene as a sophomore in Shannon’s pass-heavy attack, hauling in 100 passes for 1,364 yards and 15 touchdowns. Jones missed several games as a junior last season but still caught 37 passes for 743 yards and seven scores. Back and healthy for his fourth season with the varsity, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jones has a number of colleges after his commitment.
Among Jones’ suitors are Southern Miss, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Troy, Texas-San Antonio, Nicholls State, South Alabama and Tulane.
Jones told the Sun Herald on Friday that USM and Memphis stand out from the crowd, but he’s in no rush to pledge.
“I’ll give it to about signing day,” he said. “I’ll probably wait and see after the season.”
Regarding USM, Jones said he has a good relationship with the C-USA program.
“They’re kind of close to home and rebuilding their football program. They’re going to have a good quarterback when I go there, so it’s all good,” he said. “I like all of their coaches and coaching staff. Coach (Jay) Hopson is a real cool guy.”