Demopolis coaches make instant impact

Published 10:42 pm Friday, July 18, 2008

July is quickly drawing to a close, meaning that local high school football teams are either preparing to start summer practice or turn up the intensity on an already established rehearsal routine.

While the area will be saturated with impact names that promise to go far in determining the direction of their respective teams’ seasons, none will be more meaningful than Jeremy Sullivan and Rudy Griffin. The teaching tandem was officially announced last week as the newest additions to a previously incomplete Demopolis High School coaching staff.

Due to its shorthanded nature, the staff was unable to allow most of its position coaches to focus on their primary assignments. That stretched the staff thin, resulting in certain players not getting the attention and work they needed. The effect was particularly noticable among the defensive group.

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Sullivan was brought in to run the offensive line while Griffin was hired to oversee the defense. While both are assistant coaches, their importance cannot be overstated given head man Tom Causey’s affinity for running the ball and relying upon a strong defense in order to win games.

Sullivan, despite his young age, brings an exceptional amount of experience to the position from his days at Jacksonville State University. His hard-nosed, no-nonsense style has already made a noticable impact on an undersized group that received more than its fair share of scrutiny last season.

If Sullivan is successful at instilling his toughness and determination in his players, the offensive front should have little problem getting its 18 inches of movement off the ball nine out of every 10 plays. That one adjustment would change the entire complexion of the Demopolis offense, adding an explosive element to it that could prove daunting for most 5A teams in the state.

Griffin will work similar wonders on the other side of the ball. The former University of Alabama standout defensive lineman carries himself with a swagger befitting a winner. His expectations for his players run as high as the motor he displayed on SEC Saturdays during his playing career. After only one week on the job, Griffin has already found success in injecting a largely ignored Tiger defense with new life.

Moreover, his close relationship with former Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines has helped him develop a keen understanding of the front seven that far exceeds his young age of 24.

However, most importantly, both Sullivan and Griffin are high character coaches. Each conducts himself in a manner much more mature than his still young age. Sullivan and Griffin are both family men. They are husbands and fathers. They chose to move to the community of Demopolis because they wanted the best for their respective households.

Those priorities are indicative of the caliber of men Causey has been intent on hiring since the vacancies were first announced. And, given the emphasis each man places on attaining stability for his family, it is easy to project they will be in the City of the People long enough to bring that same stability to a program that has been desperate for it over the last several months.

So while most teams are just getting ready to kick up their intensity a notch in preparation for the coming season, Sullivan and Griffin have already upped the ante for the Tigers.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Times. You can reach him at 334-289-4017 or