Brennan Pugh ready to bring success, tradition back to Vardaman
Brennan Pugh (right) coaches during a Vardaman fall practice before last season. Pugh was recently
named the head coach of the Vardaman Rams for 2019. | Photo by Joel McNeece, Calhoun County Journal
From 1991-2012, the Vardaman Rams did not miss the postseason in football.
Head coaches Mark Bray (1985-2007) and Justin Hollis (2008-2012) built the Rams into a 1A powerhouse, and although Vardaman has never claimed a state championship in football, they became a constant in the playoff picture and won 11 division titles in that span.
Following Hollis' departure for Myrtle (where he now once again finds himself as a head coach), Vardaman fell into a drought that small schools are prone to experience from time to time. While Larry Gann led the Rams to two playoff appearances in his second stint at Vardaman, the Rams are still looking to regain the 1A dominance that they experienced for more than two decades and win their first division title since 2012.
Cue Brennan Pugh.
Pugh spent last season, his first year in coaching, as an assistant on Larry Gann's staff for the Rams and was recently named Vardaman's head coach for the 2019 season. A mere 25 years old, the Houston, Mississippi-native inherits a Vardaman team that went 4-7 a year ago, fell short of the playoffs and graduated key talent like Patrick Pratt (RB/CB), Michael Williams (FB/LB) and Tyras Armstrong (QB). Before Pugh was involved in education and coaching, he played baseball for Scott Gann at Houston High School and finished his career on the diamond at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
The Rams, like their head coach, won't be experienced this season, but Pugh is ready for the challenge.
"I believe my age provides me a unique opportunity to connect to our guys," Pugh said. "And I know that I don't know it all and that you don't know what you don't know, so I will be definitely be leaning on some trusted friends and former coaches of mine for advice and guidance on certain things."
For Pugh, he believes that his knowledge of and care for his players will carry him far in his first year leading the Vardaman program.
"The biggest things for me are I know our guys, I believe in our guys, and I love our guys," Pugh said. "The old saying is: 'Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.' I firmly believe that."
Although much of the reason Pugh feels like he is the right man for the job is centered on his connection with the Ram players, he claims to have a strong vision for where he wants this program to be under his leadership.
"I've got a plan and a vision for what I want this program to look like," Pugh said, "and when our guys buy in and believe in themselves and believe in each other and are willing to put in the work, I believe we can get the program to where it should be. This is a very tradition-rich football program, and I plan to reestablish that tradition."
As far as his first spring and summer at the helm of the Vardaman program, Pugh has one goal in mind: getting better.
"Our main focus this spring and summer will be daily improvement," Pugh said. "Getting stronger and faster, mastering fundamentals and techniques and coming together as a team. Personally, I will work on being a better leader and communicator and finding the most effective ways to give our guys a clear vision on where we are, where we are going and how we will get there."
Although Pugh admits that his Rams lost some key pieces of their roster after last season, he feels that his focus should be on the kids he has now and what they can do to be successful.
"We definitely lost some really good players with [Pratt, Williams and Armstrong] as well as [Lamyus] Nike Moore and Zach Card," Pugh said, "but I don't really look at it as much of how to replace them. It's just who do we have that we can depend on and what they do well? I'm looking for guys that I can trust and count on day in and day out."
Pugh has roughly four months to find those players before the Rams welcome former-Vardaman head coach Justin Hollis and his Myrtle Hawks to town for their season opener on Aug. 17.