It didn't take Ken Cribb long to learn that one of Bluffton High School's strengths would be on the defensive side of the football. And now the Bobcats coach is adjusting his coaching staff accordingly.
Cribb said Tuesday that four new assistants -- including three on defense -- have been added to Bluffton's coaching staff, headlined by former Ridgeland head man Richard Kirkland, who will coach outside linebackers. Former Whale Branch offensive coordinator Dean Hawkins and a pair of others also will join Cribb in the Bobcats' move to 4-A classification this season.
"I really like the fact that I've got some youth with knowledge," Cribb said. "Their passion is just going to bring a lot more fire into our program. It already has. These kids are feeding off these young guys."
The Bobcats spent the majority of last season's run to the Class 3-A state championship game using a 4-2-5 defense, but Cribb and Co. are expecting more production from a deeper linebacking core this time around. Cribb said Bluffton will work more out of a 3-4 defense this year.
"We've got more skill people and a lot more speed," he said. " ... (The 3-4) is something we're looking at because of our personnel."
That's where Kirkland will come into play, as the former coach of the now-defunct Ridgeland High will oversee outside linebackers for Cribb and defensive coordinator John Houpt.
"A former head coach of his said he was the best assistant he ever had," Cribb said. "He has a special bond with the players, does a great job relating and is an extremely talented coach that really gets a lot out of his kids."
Kirkland will be joined by Luke Rogers, who will coach inside linebackers. He played at Ashland University in Ohio and heads to Bluffton after a recent coaching stop at Ashland High School.
The two new linebacker coaches will offer a reprieve for Houpt, who spent much of his time last year overseeing the position while also serving as defensive coordinator. The Bobcats had as few as three coaches on that side of the football a year ago but now have five coaches there.
"We're adjusting our defense a little bit to match our personnel, so we need five coaches," Cribb said.
Tommy Adams adds to the list of new defensive assistants, as the former strength and conditioning coach for Winthrop University will coach the secondary in addition to his duties as strength coordinator. Adams is the brother of Georgetown High School head coach and former Cribb assistant Bradley Adams, who was a finalist for the job at Hilton Head Island High earlier this year.
Adams replaces Josh Poole, who relocated to Atlanta after only one season with the Bobcats.
"He is a guru," Cribb said of Tommy Adams. "He's modern. His energy level, passion and knowledge (are) second to none."
Hawkins rounds out the list, as the former Warriors coordinator will oversee the running backs for Cribb. He replaces Anthony Smith, who left to further focus on his ministry. The two first met at a coaching clinic following the 2010 season, where Hawkins grabbed Cribb's attention after picking the coach's brain on the Bobcats' high-octane offense.
"He was a very good student of the game and the offense. Asked very particular questions," Cribb recalled. "He'd ask me certain things that other people don't ask. People want to know about plays, but he'd ask me timing and relationship questions."
The new crop of coaches will get their first one-on-one with players on July 27, when practices begin.