Nowell’s the time for Franklin County

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, July 14, 2013

    MEADVILLE – James “Jimbo” Nowell has coached football on the high school, junior college and university level, always as an assistant coach. He’s excited about his  first opportunity in 24 years to lead a football team as a head coach.

     Nowell, 46,  joined Franklin County in time for spring practice after spending two years as defensive coordinator at Pearl River Community College. With the change of employment, Nowell decided to become the offensive coordinator at Franklin County.

     “I’ve always considered myself a defensive coach,” said Nowell. “Adam Barron is our defensive coordinator at Franklin County and he knows what he’s doing.”

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     Nowell has worked with big name coaches during his career. Mainly a strength coach at the university level, Nowell worked with Rich Rodriquez at West Virginia, Nick Saban at LSU and Alabama and Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State. He also worked at Western Kentucky.

     In 1999, he helped Madison Central win a Class 5A state championship as defensive coordinator and strength coach.

     “We plan to run a spread offense at different tempos,” said Nowell.  “I’ve gotten a lot of input from coaches I’ve known. I’m going to do things (on offense) that give headaches to defensive coaches.”

     He prefers a conservative approach most of the time, relying on an effective, 2-back  running game. He has one of the best running backs in the Magnolia State this fall,  senior Chris Robinson. As a junior, Robinson rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 32 touchdowns.

     “We want to secure the ball and play good defense,” said Nowell.

     The Bulldogs have had a busy summer as Nowell carried them to 7-on-7 passing tournaments in the Jackson area. “We wanted to get better at throwing the football.”

     Nowell said his Bulldogs grew in confidence, claiming wins over Pearl, Ridgeland, Hazlehurst and Warren Central. “We only threw one interception in our last four 7-on-7 games.”

     Senior Malik Moore and freshman Kamryn Webster are the starting quarterback candidates. Robinson can run the offense, too.

     “We had a great spring (practice) and made a lot of progress,” said Nowell. “Our June workouts were tremendous. We had about 60 kids. We worked from 8-10 a.m., five days a week.”

     Nowell said the July work schedule has been reduced to three days a week as the Aug. 5 opening of preseason practice approaches. “You have to be creative as a coach and make the workouts more fun for the kids. You have to recruit players. Our kids love those 7-on-7 camps.”

     Franklin County’s football tradition runs deep. The Bulldogs won a state championship in 2006. Rickey O’Quinn,  a Franklin County alumnus, served as head coach for the past three seasons, going 23-16. He was 7-5 last season, reaching the second round of the state playoffs. He’s expected to coach the basketball team this year.

     Nowell will serve as assistant principal to M.D. Bilbo. He’ll also coach the junior varsity team. He is a Southern Miss graduate and has a master’s degree in education administration from William Carey University.

     “I interviewed for three jobs after I left Pearl River,” said Nowell. “Franklin County impressed me the most. I like this job because the people here want to win. The community is supportive and they want a winner.”

     Nowell said he learned a lot from the head college coaches he worked for. “Coach Saban is impatient and he’s intense. He wants things done right now, not later.”

     Intense on the sidelines, Nowell said, “I’m a hands-on coach. I like to know what my coaches are doing.”

     Also on FC’s staff are Phillip Poole, linebacker coach; Johnathan Brooks, defensive backs and wide receivers; and Brent Calcote, offensive line. Brooks is an FCHS graduate.

     Franklin County is a Region 7-3A member. Region foes are defending state champion Hazlehurst, Jefferson County, Crystal Springs, Wilkinson County, and newcomer Wesson. The Bulldogs also open their season with Class 5A Brookhaven Aug. 23, in Louie Mullins Memorial Stadium.

     “We are playing a tough, non-conference schedule,” said Nowell. “The first five games we will find out quick, exactly what we have.”

     After Brookhaven, the Bulldogs tackle 4A foes North Pike and McComb. Next is a date with 3A powerhouse Tylertown, which dropped from Class 4A.

     Nowell is a 1983 graduate of Magee High school. He attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College before transferring to USM.

     He and wife, Linda, have two children. Taylor is a junior at Mississippi State University, majoring in banking and finance. Jordan is a sophomore at Pearl High School and is a ball girl for the Pirates.

     Nowell said his family has moved 12 times in 24 years of coaching. Both sets of parents reside in Pearl.

     “We found a great deal on a house in Pearl,” said Nowell. His wife is a vice president with Magnolia State Bank.

     Nowell said he doesn’t mind living in an RV in Meadville during the week. “You have to eat, sleep and breathe football. I love it more today than I did last year.”

     He currently has his team involved in a fundraising project to purchase new equipment for the FCHS weight training facility. “Equipment wears out and it has to be replaced.”

     Nowell’s love for football is contagious.