2010-08-04 / Sports

Littlejohn to leave own imprint

By LARRY HILLIARD
Ledger Sports Editor

Gaffney High offensive coordinator Donnie Littlejohn interacts with players during Tuesday morning's practice. Gaffney High offensive coordinator Donnie Littlejohn interacts with players during Tuesday morning's practice. New offensive coordinator Donnie Littlejohn coached under Phil Strickland for many years, so it’s natural they have a similar mind-set: to be balanced on offense.

But make no mistake, Littlejohn plans on leaving his own imprint on the 2010 Gaffney offense.

Littlejohn, who starred on the offensive line for Gaffney and Furman, is smart, understands offense and is organized.

With that resume, he was promoted in the offseason from co-offensive coordinator to offensive coordinator after former coordinator Perry Woolbright resigned to take the head coaching job at North Myrtle Beach.

The biggest change, obviously, is the added responsibility.

“As the co-offensive coordinator I was responsible for the running game,” said Littlejohn after Tuesday’s first practice session. “Now, as the offensive coordinator, I oversee the whole offense.”

But he’s quick to add it will be a team effort with input from his fellow offensive position coaches.

Littlejohn said his top priority is to make sure the coaches are on the “same page.”

To accomplish that goal, Littlejohn and the other offensive coaches met daily in the offseason to review every offensive play called by the Indians over the last several seasons.

The meetings helped each coach become more familiar with every aspect of the offense.

“Every coach is naturally going to be worried about their position, but now they can look and know what’s going on with the whole offense,” Littlejohn said.

As for the players, Littlejohn said his top goal is to make the game fun. The result, hopefully, will be wins - and lots of them.

Last season under Woolbright, the Indians averaged 32 points a game. They averaged 173 yards a game on the ground and 212 through the air.

Although the stats seem respectable enough, Littlejohn hopes to bring more rhythm to the offense by making use of the tight ends (Blake Bradley or Dominique Wilkins), adding more playaction passes and improving the spacing of the wide receivers.

He said he plans to motion the tight end and line them up at either fullback or H-back to spread out the defense.

A focus of the preseason has been to improve the route-running of the wide receivers. He said he doesn’t want a reoccurrence of last season when wide receivers ended up in the same area on some plays.

A frequent criticism of the former offensive coordinator was his exclusive use of the no-huddle. But Littlejohn said the offense will operate some under center this season, especially on sweeps and isolation runs.

The Indians do have playmakers on offense and none more dynamic than quarterback DeEdward Burris. Littlejohn said he wants to bring more structure to Burris’ overall game.

“He’s one of the best athletes we’ve had,” Littlejohn said. “Last year, he had a lot of freedom. We want him to do what a quarterback does and that’s to get the ball to the playmakers.”

But Littlejohn adds, Burris also will be called upon to make plays with either his feet or arm.

There’s more depth and talent on the offensive line.

“We have a lot of guys who can play and contribute,” Littlejohn said.

At halfback, Robert Grandy returns and C.J. Miller is coming off a great offseason.

There’s also talent and depth at wide receiver with Quinshad Davis, Khris Brown, Mike Wood, Ryan Frock and Brandon Bevis.

With so much talent, Littlejohn said his goal in the preseason is to “get the best 11 on the field

every play.”

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