Jeff Herron, who won four football state championships at Camden County and Oconee County before taking the Prince Avenue Christian job in 2013, will replace Mickey Conn as head coach at Grayson.
Herron said he would meet with Grayson’s players and coaching staff later Thursday, before the school lets out Friday for Spring Break.
‘’I look at Grayson as a great opportunity and challenge,’’ Herron said. “They’ve got the hardest schedule in the history of high school football next season. I’m excited about it. The competitor in me is fired up about that challenge.’’
Herron might’ve exaggerated a little on Grayson’s schedule, but it is a doozy, including a home opener Aug. 26 against Florida’s IMG Academy, ranked No. 7 nationally last season by MaxPreps. It also includes nationally renowned Hoover of Alabama and Georgia state powers McEachern and Archer.
Herron’s record over 26 seasons as a head coach is 273-51. His teams – which include Walton, Cedar Shoals, Wheeler and Oconee County in the 1990s – have never failed to have a winning season. Herron won state titles at Oconee County (1999) and Camden County (2003, 2008 and 2009). Neither had won state titles before he arrived.
Herron made a surprise move in 2013 when he retired from public schools and the highest classification at Camden and took a job at Class A private school Prince Avenue. His Prince Avenue teams were 10-2, 9-2 and 12-1.
Herron said he was not looking to leave Prince Avenue. Grayson reached out to him.
‘’I have loved my time at Prince Avenue,’’ Herron said. “It was a great fit for me and helped me grow as a coach and as a person spiritually. I was not thinking about [leaving]. When they [Grayson] called me at first, I was not interested. But when they called back in a week, I became very interested. The more I talked with them, the principal and the AD, the more they talked about what they’re trying to do and I thought it would be a tremendous opportunity. It would be tough to say no.”
Herron, who will maintain his home in the Athens area and commute about 30 minutes, said the allure of returning the the highest classification was attractive, but not the sole reason for making the move.
”There were things that I missed [about the highest classificaiton] and things that I didn’t,” Herron said. “Football is still football. For me to say a larger school is better than Prince does a disservice to them. Friday night at Prince Avenue was as exciting as anywhere. But on the flipside, the competition and the crowd size are different in 6A and what’s about to be 7A. I can’t deny that getting a chance to compete in the largest classification against the unbelievable schedule they have isn’t part of it. That’s a challenge.’’
Herron’s teams throughout most of his career have employed the run-based, ball-control Wing T offense. Herron said he would not install the Wing T at Grayson.
‘’I see me having to change,’’ Herron said. “Quite honestly, it’s something we’ve been working on the past few years at Prince Avenue. We’ve been more wide open than I’ve been at almost any time in my career. We’re not going to be an under-the-center Wing-T team. The quarterback [Clemson-committed rising senior Chase Brice] is too talented. People might not recognize me offensively, but I’ve been in this business long enough to know you have to do what’s best for the kids to have success.’’
Grayson won seven region titles and one state championship under Conn, who left to take a position on Clemson University’s support staff. Conn started Grayson’s program in 2000 and was 137-48. Grayson has won at least 10 games in eight of the past nine seasons and was 13-1 in 2015.
‘’The good news is they’ve got a real good coaching staff and program in place,” Herron said. “There are not a lot of things I feel like I’ll have to go in and change. I can jump right in and try to make everybody fit together the way we should. Everybody in the state knows Grayson already has a great program. I’m hoping to go in and be a small part of it.’’