July 12, 2010

Tommy Knotts plans to turn around Dutch Fork

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

DUNCAN, S.C. - Between 2000 and 2007, Tommy Knotts helped guide the Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High Patriots to 109 consecutive wins.

Irmo (S.C.) Dutch Fork High opened in 1992 and its football team has won 110 games. Total.

Knotts' Independence teams won every state title from 2000 through 2006 and lost the state title in 2007. They've been the recipient of significant national media attention through the years and have sent numerous players to Division I colleges.

The Dutch Fork Silver Foxes did not.

But Knotts, now the head coach at Dutch Fork, will take his 296-60 career record and 30 years of coaching experience and attempt to turn around a program that has known one coach in its existence and just a 110-106 record.

"This is a lot different from where I came from," Knotts said. "Football is very important in South Carolina and we have some work to do."

The work has already begun.

"We are making them more physical," he said this weekend at the Palmetto State Showdown. "We are enhancing our weight lifting program. We are making this team more physical.

"Most importantly we are changing the mindset."

The team, which has only won four combined games in the past two seasons, has bought in completely.

Justin Suber, the team's leader, best player and quarterback, says the change has been dramatic.

"Coach knows what he is doing," he said. "We all believe in him."

The players' confidence has soared and their performance on the field has improved.

At the Palmetto State Showdown 7-on-7 event, Dutch Fork was a pleasant - if not spectacular surprise - advancing into the Final Six before falling to Greenville (S.C.) High in the consolation semifinals.

"It was a culture shock to everyone," Knotts said. "I had a couple of coaches quit pretty quickly. I don't think people realized how hard we were going to have to work. They didn't think we would be doing all the things we do."

And the changes won't stop there.

"I have my five-minute plan and my five-year plan," Knotts said. "I think both can be achieved here."

The five-minute plan is already in place.

The team is working out six days a week. Athletes that were not interested in the football program are being courted onto the field. And players not ready to work are being weeded out.

"Football isn't for everyone," Knotts said. "Not the way I want to play it. Right now I have 150 kids. That number will go down."

That is part of his five-year plan.

"We need to emulate the big boys," Knotts said. "You look at Hoover [(Ala.) High] and [Duncan (S.C.)] Byrnes. They have all their youth programs running the same systems. The kids know what it means to be a part of that system and that tradition. That is what we need here. And that is what we will have here."

Knotts plans to reach out to the youth programs quickly and get the process started.

"I have been charged with getting that going," he said. "From Pop Warner on up, all of us will be on the same page."

At his disposal will be former NFLer Stephen Davis, who runs the youth development leagues for the area.

"It will be grass roots," Knotts said. "It has to start with the little guys in our youth program and move on up. This is a community made for football. But tradition is important."

Tradition is one thing that Knotts has on his side.

"Coach has been winning for a long time," Suber said. "We want to be a part of that."

While Knotts has been a success at his three coaching stops along the way, he says it isn't all him.

"Football is more than X's and O's," he said. "I don't go out there and win games."

But he doesn't stand on the sidelines and lose many either.

MORE: Top players from Palmetto Showdown | Bergen Catholic is Jersey Sure | Wren wins title


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