In one coaching hire, the entire aura around DeKalb football completely changed.
The program brought in Matt Weckler from Belvidere on Feb. 19, and with him the Barbs also brought in stability, discipline and expectations. It’s a change the players noticed before official practices even began.
“Everybody’s a little more confident in what we can do,” senior right tackle Camren Ward said. “We’ve got a really good team this year, and I think we all understand that.”
Such high hopes haven’t been reached many times in recent years by the Barbs, who are coming off a 2-7 season. The program has one playoff berth and no winning seasons since 1994. The team has been plagued by unstable leadership in recent years, and now Weckler is the third coach in three years.
For the seniors who have gone through all these changes, it’s good to get these other issues taken care of and just play football.
“One of the biggest things is the sheer expectation that he brings,” senior quarterback Jack Sauter said. “Last year, it was hard with an interim coach (Todd Hallaron) to take all the expectations seriously. It was definitely a transition season.”
The transition is over now, and Weckler is ready to lead this team. However, the situation he’s in is completely different from his previous one.
At Belvidere, he took over a program in 2007 that consistently made the playoffs and won consecutive state titles 13 years prior. The move from Class 5A to 6A made the DeKalb job more attractive, but for Weckler, it’s about finding a new challenge.
“It’s something new,” Weckler said. “It’s fresh. The kids are fresh with us. It’s a whole new coaching staff here, and I like the opportunity to start something from scratch.”
One of Weckler’s first moves was bringing three coaches along with him from his previous job, which he said made his transition much easier. From there, he busy installing his system, one that requires stability.
Players were put into position early so they could get as many repetitions as possible. With all that the program has seen recently, the organization might be exactly what’s needed.
“We don’t move kids around week to week,” Weckler said. “We don’t change philosophies week to week. We just keep things consistent. The consistency is what these kids have been missing, and it’s what they like.”
Weckler is an energetic coach who expects commitment from anyone on his team. Players have described his workouts and practices as structured and game-like, and they say he acts like a player by yelling and trying to get them excited.
So far, it’s worked. The players are excited about what could become of the 2013 season. Despite the lack of recent success, Weckler’s style has caused them to forget what’s behind them and have high expectations for what’s ahead.
“This year, it’s all about being mentally strong,” senior halfback Demetrios Collins said. “We’ve always had the talent, so now it’s just about believing we can put it together.”