Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Back to Work at Mandarin; Hall's Plans for the Mustangs Program Remain in Place as the Team Begins Practice

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Back to Work at Mandarin; Hall's Plans for the Mustangs Program Remain in Place as the Team Begins Practice

Article excerpt

Byline: JASON SCHNEIDER

There was no emotional speech, no names invoked at Mandarin's first practice since the death of head coach J.D. Hall.

Just football.

Coaches yelled at players, instructed on proper techniques and blew their whistles. Players joked around between drills, slapped each other's helmets in praise and performed a lot of up-downs.

With the exception of a sign fashioned from plastic red cups that spelled out "WE LUV U JD" and two bouquets of silk red roses on a fence by the stadium stands, there was no overt indication that the Mandarin program suffered a monumental loss six weeks ago when Hall died at the age of 35 from a heart attack.

"We talked to the kids about it a little bit, but there hasn't been much change from a football standpoint," said interim head coach Luther Price. "Everything has been pretty much along the same lines."

Indeed, the offensive and defensive schemes haven't changed and there hasn't been a radical makeover of the staff. The only noticeable difference in the program is the presence of Price, who was hired by Hall in February to be an assistant coach.

Hall died June 23, and Price was named the interim head coach July 26. On Monday, the first day of football practice in the state, he and the rest of the Mustangs staff began the process of preparing their team for the season, which starts Aug. 31.

Price, a former Marine who coached at Jacksonville University for four seasons, was chosen by the Mandarin coaching staff as their pick to replace Hall for the season soon after Hall's death, a request that was communicated to the school administration.

Mandarin athletic director Tammie Talley said she and principal Crystal Sisler believed it was best to appoint a member of the staff to be head coach in the interest of the program's continuity.

Though Price had never coached at Mandarin, he coached many of the current players at Mandarin Middle School before coaching at JU.

Even with the backing of his coaches, administration and his familiarity with the players, Price admits that there was some trepidation in taking over for Hall, a tremendously popular figure in the Mandarin community who re-energized the school's program in three seasons. …

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