Players, fans, coaches excited about new coach

J. Michael Moore

Jimmy Feix wanted a “good old Western boy” to take over for Jack Harbaugh.

He got a good not-so-old Western boy.

And he couldn’t be happier.

David Elson, 31, was named head coach of the Hilltoppers yesterday, replacing Harbaugh, his former boss.

Feix, the school’s all-time most-winning coach, compares Elson’s entrance to his own 35 years ago.

He also was young and replacing a tenured coach.

“Thirty-five years ago, almost to the day, the university — in hopes of keeping stability when coach (Nick) Denes retired — turned the reins over to a young fella who had never been a head coach,” Feix said. “That spring, I had my first football team.

“We were able to maintain some consistency and I see this being the same way.”

Elson stressed continuity in his press conference. Western football, at least in on a coaching standpoint, will remain mostly in tact.

That got smiles from the Hilltopper faithful, players and assistant coaches.

“We just won a national championship,” Elson said “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. Everyone that is with us now, is with us.”

Jeremy Chandler, a junior cornerback, was a little scared when Harbaugh stepped down.

But with Elson — the team’s most tenured assistant coming back from a four-week stint at West Virginia, all fears were squelched.

“The wheel’s been rolling,” Chandler said. “You don’t want to put the brakes on and stuff. Not having to go through the process of change, just keeping going what we’ve got going really makes us as a team feel a lot better.”

He looks forward to the youthful energy Elson brings to the program, the same energy he has seen in defensive practice.

Outside linebackers’ coach Bryan Cross looks forward to keeping the family together.

“You get a national championship under your belt with this staff and these players, obviously somebody knows what they’re doing,” Cross said.

To Cross, the coaching staff is like a group of brothers.

He looks forward to bouncing ideas across the meeting room, including Elson’s idea of a more balanced offense.

That includes more passing, in a “shotgun” set.

David Graves, an assistant to Mary Taylor Cowles and the Lady Topper basketball team knows about the family atmosphere at Western.

He started his coaching career here, and was brought back on board with Cowles — a former Lady Topper — to return the program to prominence.

He is excited about the prospects Elson brings to the table.

“It couldn’t be a better choice… David Elson is first class,” Graves said. “When he talks about that family atmosphere, that’s what Western’s all about.”

He said the support between coaching staffs on the Hill is unmatched.

Just ask his child, who had to go without diapers the night Western won the Division I-AA football championship.

Graves was in Chicago with the Lady Toppers the night of the big game, and caught a little heat from his wife.

“We are pulling for each other all the time,” Graves said. “I got in trouble with my wife in Chicago … She called and needed diapers. I was glued to the national championship football game. When she got back, we still didn’t have diapers.”

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]