• John Macon Gillespie

Coach Riddley Off To Fast Start At Alma Mater

In 2014, Otis Riddley took over as head football coach at Provine High, leaving Callaway. Prior to his playing days as an offensive lineman at Mississippi State from 2003-2006, he was a class of 2002 graduate of Provine. Furthermore he replaced his own head coach from his high school days, Willie Collins, who won 167 games over 22 years as the head coach of the Rams. Before Collins, there was Stanley Blackmon, who compiled at 72-62 record in 13 seasons.

The tradition, not only from his own playing days, at Provine is something he has respect for and aspirations to continue. He is 12-11 in his first two seasons and enters his third with a roster filled with talent, chemistry and desire.

SES: What’s unique there at Provine? What makes it different than other places you’ve been?

Coach Riddley: The tradition and the desire the fans have for good football is unique to Jackson. The fans are football savvy and that’s to be expected with the tradition that Coach Stanley Blackmon and Coach Willie Collins established over the past 30 years. It’s been fun so far attempting to re-establish ourselves as a formidable program.

SES: What do you want the reputation of your program and your team to be?

Coach Riddley: We try to do everything at Provine in a 1st class manner. We conduct our business in a way that models the type of structure and discipline we’d want our student-athletes to live with when their playing days are over. Our core values will always be: commitment, pride, discipline and hard work.

2016 could be a big season, many Rams have shown well at the first two Fortius Project stops.

On March 5th a group of Provine players made their way to Petal High school and dominated the first Fortius Project camp. Juwan Taylor, Diante Brocks and Brian Collins each made the all-combine team. Collins and Brocks would again earn those honors when a large Provine group returned to Fortius at MRA on April 2nd.

The Provine teammates are not only obviously talented, but also noticeably close. After speaking with them, it’s also clear they are hungry to win this Fall. It certainly appears they are on track to do a good bit of that.

SES: What does it say to you or validate to you about your team that they are performing well in competitive camps this offseason? What can it mean for them going forward?

Coach Riddley: We’re always proud to see our guys compete against the best and do well. Solid performances like those help us reinforce the coaching we’ve been giving them. We’ve been building our program up from scratch and it’s good to see guys develop and do great things in any phase of competition.

SES: You team seems to be close, how has that bond formed and grown?

Coach Riddley: Glad you could notice a closeness between them. We are trying to make the transition from team to family. They are buying in. That’s one of the difficulties we face. Most of our kids may know each other but they live in different communities within the city so the bonds are not at strong early on. But they get better as we progress.

SES: What are the strengths of your team? And what are your expectations for next season?

Coach Riddley: Our skill positions have developed the depth you like to see. We are athletic on the edge, as well. We are still a young team, but we have some talented young guys we are trying to develop.

SES: We told the guys at Fortius they were like the new ‘Provine Posse’, you’re familiar with the original group, though.

Coach Riddley: “Lol, they were babies when the original posse came through here. But those are my guys(Justin Reed, Aaron Harper and David Sanders). Me and Dave are best friends.

David Sanders is currently the head basketball coach at Ridley’s previous stop, Callaway.

Ridley draws from playing days, time at MSU

Ridley was a revered player in his time in the Mississippi State football program. Jackie Sherrill, to this day, he credits for where he is. Other coaches who have influenced him a long the way are: Morris Watts, Steve Campbell, Willie Collins and Daryl Jones.

He also draws from his own personal experiences, playing in the tough, rugged trenches, to aid in managing his coaching responsibilities.

SES: How does your experience playing the game benefit you? How does it affect the style of coach you are?

Coach Riddley: I rely on my playing experience a great deal. I was influenced through my playing days by some of the best coaches in the business. I also understand the grind of the game and I use that knowledge to know how to adjust what we are doing based on the energy we receive from our guys. We try to make every day productive and sometimes a normal practice has limited productivity with high school players.

**Photo by Keith Warren of the MHSAA.

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