The final piece of the puzzle has been placed and the Sam Houston State Bearkats are now ready to tackle the spring with full force.
Following their 65-7 loss to James Madison in the FCS Quarterfinals on Dec. 9, the Bearkat football team lost both its offensive and defensive coordinators to other universities. Former SHSU offensive coordinator Phil Longo was lured away to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Mississippi and former defensive coordinator Brad Sherrod joined the Wake Forest University coaching staff.
However, those two vacancies allowed for two new faces to step in and fill the positions. The Bearkats hired former University of Nevada offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey to play headmaster to one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses and the Kats went in-house and promoted defensive backs coach Clayton Carlin to defensive coordinator.
“I’ve had some really high level coordinators in the past,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “These guys are as capable and as respected as any of the two I’ve had. We haven’t skipped a beat with the hiring of these two guys.”
Cramsey, who both played and coached under former Oregon and 49ers head coach Chip Kelly, is seen as someone who can restore balance to the Bearkat offense. The new offensive coordinator has the same up-tempo philosophy that SHSU ran under Longo, but Keeler wanted someone who could bring physicality back to the offensive side of the ball.
“I’ve been really impressed with him,” Keeler said. “I asked him to do something really unique. I asked him to keep the bulk of our passing game and just improve on it and tweak it because our kids know it so well and we obviously had a lot of success; but the thing I wanted to change was our run game because we weren’t physical enough at the end of the season.”
The new Bearkat offensive coordinator is no stranger to coaching at the FCS level. Cramsey was the leader of one of the most prolific offenses in the country three seasons ago at Montana State University. During his last season with the Bobcats, Montana State averaged 37.6 points per game and 475 yards of total offense per game.
Cramsey has a chance to replicate those numbers with SHSU’s offense, which ranked first in the FCS with 547.3 yards per game and 49.5 points per game last season.
“Tim [Cramsey] has been working on redoing some of the run game that we have but the kids really like him,” Keeler said. “The kids really like the offense and the staff has meshed really well and we look really god out there. It has been a seamless transition.”
Although Cramsey has been a tight ends, fullbacks and running backs position coach in the past, he is portrayed as a quarterback specialist; and Keeler has already seen improvement at that position during spring practice.
“Already I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in our backup quarterback Caleb Griffin,” Keeler said. “I think with the really good young quarterbacks we’re brining in, we needed a guy who’s known as a quarterback coach. A lot of guys can coordinate, but don’t coach a position. He can coach the position. He’s a quarterbacks guy.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Kats elevated Carlin to defensive coordinator on March 21.
It was an in-house hire, as Carlin served as a defensive backs coach for SHSU last season. However, Carlin has coordinating experience. He spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and had much success. Prior to coaching at CCU, Carlin led defenses at Bucknell and Cornell.
“I targeted him as a guy who could probably be a coordinator for us,” Keeler said. “He had a lot of success at Coastal Carolina. Their defense ranked in the top 15 in the country during his last two years there. Just being able to spend a year with him here I was really impressed.”
According to Keeler, the Bearkat defense is currently transitioning to a simpler scheme, much like what the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons of the NFL run. Carlin will be in charge of managing the transition.
“We were already in the process of transforming the defense before Brad [Sherrod] left to go to Wake Forest,” Keeler said. “We’re trying to keep it simpler because we know we have a lot of young players who are about to play for us because of our great freshman class, so we have kind of gone more to a Seattle Seahawk, Atlanta Falcon sort of principal.”
The Bearkats are in their third week of spring practice and are preparing to showcase their skills to fans and spectators around the country on April 7 at the team’s annual spring game.