Can Jeff Tomlinson finally be the man to turn the program around?
This is a question we have covered in other articles previous.
That being said as we approach year one beginning on the Hill for Coach Tomlinson, I felt it deserved its own article.
The simple answer is yes.
Dickson County has always just been a coach away from competing.
We do need to define, competing though.
Much like Tennessee Volunteer fans, it sometimes feels as if Cougar faithful expect every new coach or regime to not only turn them around quickly but do it in a spectacular fashion.
Dickson County would do good to win four or five games this season.
That may or may not qualify them for the playoffs.
However, worth noting, that the Cougars have not won four or more games since 2015.
For context, I was starting my Freshman year at Rocky Top at the time. It has been a while.
So before we examined the why of it all, felt necessary to define compete or success.
Beating Creek Wood, last done in 2018, that would be huge.
Winning that game makes winning four or more total also a lot more feasible, and again, four or more wins would be a small miracle for the Cougars.
That is enough of that though, let’s examine the why or the how.
The first point lays squarely atop Coach Tomlinson’s shoulders.
He is a winner. Proven.
We can credit him with what he did at Creek Wood, and while then Head Coach Chuck Daniel will be quick to tell you “Jeff was integral in what we did” it was not his show.
It was, however, his show at Montgomery Central, and he showed a propensity for a culture shift and winning program creation.
Tomlinson took over Central when the program was struggling to say the least.
They had won just five games from 2005-09 with back-to-back 0-10 seasons in 2007 and 2008.
In his first season, 2012, Central was winless but over the next three seasons, Tomlinson’s teams won 12 games.
By 2018, Central was ranked in the top five in 4A finishing a program-best 10-2 and making it to round two of the playoffs.
The next season they narrowly missed the playoffs despite seven wins.
We choose not to hold 2020 against anyone. If you had success, like Creek Wood did, great. If you go 2-5 like the Indians, it is not a sign of poor coaching or culture, just Covid.
Case and point, after winning seventeen games over two years, Tomlinson weathered 2020 and came back in 2021, his team posted nine wins in a nine-team Region that boasted three other ranked teams in Pearl Cohn, Marshall County, and Tullahoma, who eventually won the state title.
Central lost to Tullahoma, 42-7, in the second round, no shame there.
Ultimately, under Coach Tomlinson, the Indians were ranked in Class 4A for much of the back half of his tenure and even found themselves state-ranked, ranked regardless of classification, twice in the past four years.
Yes, his career record was 45-57.
Consider though, from 2012 to 2017 he went 17-44, improving year-to-year until a slight decline in 2016 and 2017.
From 2018 to 2021, however, he was 28-13, with two trips to the TSSAA second round. Drop the covid year and that record becomes 26-8.
It can be argued Coach Tomlinson just had a really talented group of young men.
Which is true, he did.
However, unlike at Montogmery Central or even Creek Wood, you are not dependent on one talented class in 6A football.
Dickson County has over 1500 students. There will always be a talent pool to pull from.
Also, keep in mind, that Coach Tomlinson inherits a team with just as much talent, on paper, as any team he had with the Indians.
A division one QB commit in Colbey Lamberth. WR talent like Cade Pilkington. A QB/RB Hybrid like Wyatt Grambling who by the way very well might also be the number two or three WR and one of their best DB.
The best part of this football team is also that the majority of its players and talent are underclassmen.
Meaning they are still malleable and ready to adapt to whatever system and culture they are put in.
Finally, a point Coach Tomlinson himself has made in previous interviews.
“It’s hard to hire coaches and get those coaches in the building. It’s hard when you don’t have middle school programs that can help develop the young players and move those players to the next level.”
Neither of those will be issues at Dickson County.
The Cougars are playing 6A football, the highest classification in the state. This is where coaches want to be and stay. Period.
They also have two, extremely, talented middle school programs feeding them in Burns and Dickson.
Both of whom have competed for conference titles at their level.
Not to mention, Chuck Daniel is on staff at Burns. He is all too familiar with the kind of player and the system Coach Tomlinson wants.
So again, can Coach Tomlinson be the man to turn it around? Yes.
Will he be? Now that is a million-dollar question.