As Ravenwood prepares to defend its Class 6A state title, it’ll do so under the watch of a coach who’s played alongside two Heisman Trophy winners and spent time learning from a few Super Bowl-winning coach.
First-year coach Richie Wessman was hired in March to replace Will Hester, who left for Nolensville in December, less two weeks after leading the Raptors to their second football title with a 26-17 upset win over Maryville.
Wessman will have quite the challenge in his first year, taking over a program that graduated nearly all of its starters, but he’s working hard to instill his new system.
“This year, we don’t have as much talent,” senior offensive tackle Patrick Leitten said. “Obviously, we lost a lot of guys, over 40 seniors, so I think this year Coach Wessman is really focusing on getting everybody on the same page with the schemes, technique, form, everything like that.”
Although Hester will be a tough act to follow, Wessman comes prepared with the résumé and experience to help the Raptors stay at the top of their game.
The 35-year-old coach has spent time with several of the top college football programs in the country, made a stop in the NFL and even did a stint coaching overseas.
He has been on the staffs at Southern Cal, where he also was a quarterback, Ole Miss and Clemson, was a quality control coach with the Titans and was an assistant coach at Minnesota Crookston, a Division II school. He also has coached in England.
Along those stops, he’s worked with some of the best football minds in the game.
“I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of fantastic football coaches and to be able to learn from them scheming, coaching philosophies, motivation, leadership, all that stuff,” Wessman said. “Pete Carroll, Noel Mazzone, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Norm Chow, Dabo Swinney, Tommy Bowden, Jeff Fisher, Mike Heimerdinger, the list goes on and on.”
Among his references to get the Ravenwood coaching job was Carroll, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle in the 2013 season.
Now, he’s passing what he learned from those top coaches down to his own players.
“Something big we’re taking from Pete Carroll and USC is expecting more than what you think you can do and really competing,” Wessman said.
Top class led to coaching
Wessman knows a thing or two about competing.
He was a quarterback at Southern Cal from 2000-01, but was buried in a stellar class of passers that featured Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel and Matt Leinart. Palmer and Leinart were Heisman Trophy winners.
He said that group’s depth and talent are among the reasons he’s a coach today.
“They were pretty doggone good,” Wessman said. “They got me out of playing pretty quick.”
He’s hoping that he can take everything he learned from those players and coaches along the way and bring that to the defending state champs.
“He’s teaching the quarterbacks to read the defenses really well and kind of understand what happens when certain players go certain places,” Leitten said. “Every time I look over at the quarterbacks they’re doing some new drill. I think by the time the season rolls around, especially the midseason, they’ll be way ahead.”
And while it’s only his first year on the job, Wessman has set high expectations for himself as the 2016 campaign approaches.
“I want to win every game, but right now it’s win this moment, win what we’re doing right here and right now,” he said. “If we carry that through, good things will happen.”