Brett Sloan will take over as Kell’s head football coach after former coach Derek Cook resigned in March to pursue an administrative position.
Sloan spent the last two seasons as Walton’s assistant offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Before that, the South Carolina native coached quarterbacks and wide receivers for five seasons in his hometown of Inman, S.C., at Chapman High School. He then spent three seasons at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C.
“I started coaching in South Carolina about eleven or twelve years ago,” Sloan said. “Coach Bobby Bentley, who is now the running backs coach at South Carolina, hired me at Byrnes High School. He is a legendary head coach in South Carolina. I went there and was offensive coordinator under him for a year.”
The transition to Georgia football, and particularly Walton High School, came from several conversations with former Walton coach Mo Dixon, who was the defensive coordinator at Byrnes while Sloan was there.
“Before I came to Georgia, I worked with coach Dixon at Byrnes," Sloan said. "He talked me into coming down to Georgia and to Walton, and one thing led to another."
Sloan is taking over a successful program that has averaged 11 victories each season since 2010. The Longhorns also reached the state semifinals in 2013 and 2016. In 2013, Kell compiled a 13-1 record before losing to Creekside. Last season, Kell compiled a 11-3 record and fell to Buford. Since 2010, there were only two seasons -- 2011 and 2015 -- where the Longhorns did not win 10 games. But they won nine each season.
Coach Sloan took time Tuesday to answer a few questions during a telephone interview.
Q. What is the biggest difference between South Carolina high school football and Georgia high school football?
A. I think just the sheer number of people here gives you a better pool or a larger pool ... I wouldn’t say a better pool, because there are great, great players in South Carolina. But I think the number of Division-1 recruits in Georgia is different. It seems like the lineman and linebackers (make a difference). You see better defenses, but overall, week-to-week, football is football. It is just taken very seriously down here. That has been fun because in Spartanburg County, in the upstate of South Carolina, football is huge also. It has been like being at home. It has been great. The thing about, you know, places like Spartanburg County, football is the only thing to do on Friday nights. So you get a little bit larger crowds some times in the upstate of South Carolina. Whereas here in Georgia, there is so much to do, so many distractions, and then you add the professional teams and all those things. So it is a little bit different, but not really too much.
Q. Looking back at your first year at Kell, what are the goals and what would be rated a success?
A. Let me think on that for a second. I try not to talk to the kids about wins or losses. We try to talk about the process over the product. I know that everyone is on the Nick Saban “process” thing right now. But that is really what we try to focus on, being the best we can possibly be day-in and day-out. The winning part will take care of itself. Hopefully, you know, our mentality and demeanor will be that we want to attack the field -- vertically and horizontally. And we just want to be the aggressor at all times.
Q. What does your team look like?
A. Oh well, they're great man. They have great work ethic. Coach Cook did an outstanding job there, and he had a great staff already in place. They know what big-time football is and they know what it takes to get it done. I’m still at Walton, but when I get over there, they are already out and doing their work and speed word. They’ll be either in the defensive-end stall or offensive-end stall. They know what it is all about, definitely. We had to replace a lot of defense and lost, I think, nine starters on defense. But we return some kids who are very athletic. They run well. We just have to grow them into Friday night players. Our offense, we have four or five key-players coming back and two really good offensive linemen. We have got two good running backs and a couple of solid receivers as well. We have some good key pieces, but we just have to find the guys to fill some holes left by some seniors.
Q. What is the relationship with the Kell fan base?
A. We had our first youth and junior meeting last night and everyone was super-receptive. They're excited. I think they're excited for something new, not that anything was wrong with what was old. But any time you’re getting a new car or getting a new anything, you get excited. So I think they are excited for the future.
Q. Is there a message to that fan base?
A. We are going to play with great effort. We are going to have an identity where we attack on both offense and defense. We are not going to sit back on our heels. We are going to force the opponent to play at the tempo and the pace that we want to play. And that is our goal for the season. But you know, the biggest thing is that we will play great effort at all times. We will leave it all on the field. We will do the best we possibly can, day-in and day-out, to make the Kell community proud.
Q. Looking at the program, what changes do you see coming on?
A. From a staff standpoint, we are pretty much going to be the same. We do have a couple of guys who are no longer coaching, but that is just because they reached a point in their career where they're pursuing administration. It is not anything where a change is being made just to make a change. So we do have a couple of openings. We are going to try to get a new receivers coach at the moment. From a scheme standpoint, defensively our coach will still be there. Offensively, formation-wise and running game-wise will be very similar. The passing game will be a bit different. We will attack the field vertically, so a bit more drop-back than what they are accustomed to.
Q. Outside of football, what keeps you busy. Is there hobby… passion?
A. Well, not too long ago, about three years ago, I started to learn to play the guitar a little. So I do that when I have some time. Other than that I try to spend time with my wife. We are expecting our first-born child in September, so it will be a big fall for us. So I am spending time with her and trying to get our home and life ready for this new baby.