Tyson McLean waited 10 years as an assistant to coach his alma mater. In his first season as head coach, McLean flipped the script for the Bears. After a dismal 3-7 showing in 2010, McLean integrated his system and turned the Bears into a playoff team.
This year, McLean is poised to build on a solid foundation.
“We called it a turnaround season,” McLean said. “The previous team went 3-7 so we turned it around to go 7-3 so we’re proud of that. Now we’re just trying to improve and close the gap between us and those elite teams.”
The Bears will have their work cut out for them. Seven of their 10 games are on the road, including a four-game stretch in September and October. Some may see it as a disadvantage. McLean is looking at it differently.
“We’re going to be road warriors this year,” McLean said. “We’re going to be on the road a lot, but the good thing about it is their field is 100 yards just like ours is. For us, I think a lot of the time playing on the road is less distracting. There’s less down time. That’s the way we’re going to look at it.”
Playing against so many hostile crowds, McLean is focusing on the fundamentals so his team stays sharp on the road.
“We don’t want to beat ourselves,” McLean said. “There’s a few things that we’re working on: pre-snap penalties, post-snap penalties and turnovers. We’re working on doing the little things that we need to do to make us a tough team to beat.”
Youth may hinder Billingsley early. The Bears lost 10 seniors off of last year’s squad. Also, he has made a few adjustments to the offense, mainly the blocking schemes. McLean wants to make sure the Bears’ young core of players are ready to go when the whistle blows.
“We’re changing things up a little bit, it takes a little while for things to adjust,” McLean said. “We’ve got a whole lot of 10th-graders. We lost some guys, but I think we have some young guys who will step up and do a good job.”
The Bears are moving from a zone-blocking scheme to a man-blocking scheme in hopes to simplify the offense. Senior center and defensive tackle Luther Tyus is doing what he can to ease the learning curve for his younger teammates.
“I just try to motivate the team,” Tyus said. “Not only in the weight room and on the field, but off the field too. I’m just trying to learn the blocks and doing what I have to do.”
Serving as a coach on the field is McLean’s son Tyler. Tyler plays quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. In his senior year, he is embracing his role as a leader.
“I think you have to set an example both vocally and physically,” Tyler said. “You have to show you are doing the right thing and working hard. We had a lot of big leaders as seniors last year, and we’re just trying to follow in their footsteps.”
In his final season, Tyler just wants to lead the Bears as long as he can.
“We’re going to play as hard as we can,” Tyler said. “I want to have a 15-game season. I want to end the season with a ring on my finger.”