The Samford football team came out of quarantine with some eager legs, new players, and two new coordinators.
Joining the team this year will be defensive coordinator Nick Benedetto and offensive coordinator Mitch Stewart. Football teams change coordinators from time to time, but having two new coordinators brought in under an incumbent head coach is a rare sight.
Benedetto arrived in Birmingham after three seasons with his alma mater, the University of Sioux Falls, a Division II school in South Dakota. In two of his three seasons with Sioux Falls, his defenses were ranked in the top five of DII defenses in the country.
Benedetto’s defenses only allowed 15.6 points per game during his tenure. For reference, Samford’s defense last season allowed 37.8 points per game. His expertise in coaching defensive backs could be the piece missing in a historically underperforming Bulldog secondary
In March, head coach Chris Hatcher promoted Derrick Sherman to offensive coordinator. Soon after, an offer from Georgia State came to Sherman’s desk, and the Bulldogs were out of an offensive coordinator once again. Hatcher then hired Mitch Stewart as the OC for the 2021 season.
Stewart has been the head coach for Murray State for the past five years, where his offense was at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference for multiple seasons. He worked under Hatcher for four seasons at Murray State.
Stewart will replace former Samford offensive coordinator Russ Callaway. Callaway was the offensive coordinator under Hatcher for four seasons and was hired by LSU over the offseason as an offensive analyst. Callaway was the general behind some of the most explosive air-raid offenses in FBS history, and his departure leaves big shoes to fill for Stewart.
Stewart will have an important role in establishing the offense and finding a quarterback that is right for the job.
Samford fell to ETSU by a score of 24-17 in its first game of the season. The Bulldogs’ next home game will be this Saturday against Western Carolina at noon. It will be the first home game for the Bulldogs in 2021.