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Jacksonville’s Chris Taber Returns to Where Coaching Career Began

Christopher Vinn,

JACKSONVILLE — Things have certainly come full circle for the Jacksonville Indians new head football coach Chris Taber.

Taber began his coaching career in 2001 at Jacksonville as a freshman defensive coordinator and baseball coach under former athletic director Danny Long, the winningest football coach in school history.

More than a decade later, Taber has taken the reins of a program that’s fallen into mediocrity since Long departed following the 2002 season. Since then, Jacksonville is 50-51 after enjoying a 94-47 run in Long’s 12 seasons at the helm.

Taber, a “baseball guy” who said he had no intentions of leading a life as a football coach when he arrived in 2001, admits to learning quite a bit that first year.

“You try to build your career around people that you’ve learned from, and the guys I worked under were phenomenal,” he said.

One coach in particular Taber found an immediate connection with was Matt Turner, who is now the offensive coordinator Gilmer.

“I’d come up here in the mornings with him, watch film and work his quarterbacks during the (athletic period),” Taber said. “Just listening to him coach and the passion he had for it really had a stamp on who I was and who I was going to become.”

Another Jacksonville assistant coach during that time was Thomas Sitton, who Taber followed to New Braunfels and then to Chapel Hill when Sitton got the head coaching job with the Bulldogs prior to the 2009 season.

Taber was Sitton’s offensive coordinator at Chapel Hill the previous three years, which included a state-runner up finish in 2010 and a state championship last season.

“Anytime you have the success we had (at Chapel Hill) … ultimately you want to be a head football coach and athletic director,” Taber said. “I did interview for a couple other spots before the Jacksonville job came open, but when it did come open I sat down with my wife. It was definitely an intriguing thing to get into.”

Taber said there have been two major challenges in the short time he’s been on the job in Jacksonville.

“The biggest thing is the hiring process, not ever having to do it (before this year),” said Taber, who has hired former Chapel Hill offensive line coach Sam Brandt as his offensive coordinator and ex-Luling head coach Michael Waldie to run his defense.“You’re trying to find the right people with the right character and the same beliefs that we share.”

Another obstacle requires a sales pitch of sorts.

“The other big thing is getting those kids to buy into what you’re doing,” Taber said. “They’ve been with another staff for four years and that’s all they’ve known in high school. We’re moving some people around and putting them in spots they haven’t been in. Sometimes they kind of look at you and wonder why and they have questions.”

It’s now up to Taber and his coaching staff to provide the answers.

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