High School Sports News

2022 With TJ Carper: Head Coach Vinton County (Ohio)


Written by: David Burnworth on Tuesday, April 26th, 2022



I believe this is year number two for you at Vinton County. Last season you guys went 6-4 losing badly just once to Byesville Meadowbrook. What will you guys need to do to improve on that mark?

First, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about our program! Last year as a first-year head coach was most definitely a learning experience for me. There were mistakes made, lessons learned, and overall, just a great opportunity for me to grow as a coach and get better to make the program better. We had a decent year last year. I believe it was the most wins in season here since 2004. In order to build on that, we have to continue to handle the small things outside of the season. The focus this year is on player development and learning how to compete at a higher level this offseason. X’s and O’s are great to talk about but they’ll come later. Through our offseason program, we’ve added elements of adversity through competition in our workouts. The kids come in and it’s competitive, it’s a grind, it’s hard but they compete against their brothers and it’s nothing but love afterward. If we can’t compete within there’s no way we can compete outside the four walls of our program.

What is the hardest thing about coaching in Southern Ohio?

Logistics! Vinton County is beautiful but it has its flaws. I’m sure other schools have the same issue but here’s it’s a bit different. There’s only one High School in the entire county and kids come to school here from every corner of the county. Some of my athletes have to travel an hour and a half just to get to school. When you have a commute that long the parents don’t want to make that drive in the summer to get the kids to workouts or practice. I can’t say I don’t blame them but our kids are hungry and as part of my job I have to work with the parents on finding rides and being flexible in scheduling. One thing that I’ve done that I think every coach should do is have a Calendar and share that Calendar with the parents and the athletes. I started planning our Calendar for the offseason the day after our last playoff game. In that calendar I go over lifting dates and times, parent meetings, fundraiser start, and end dates, practice dates and times, team trips, etc. It does change from time to time but I let my parents know that changes are a part of it and to expect them and I try to give them at least 2 weeks notice of these changes. Communication and organization are key!

Which offense is the hardest t prepare for?

Any offense that Runs an option-based attack with a QB that’s a really good decision-maker or just an athlete can make it hard to prepare for. A good decision-maker puts your offense in good situations all the time and if your QB is the best athlete on the field he has the opportunity to break the game wide open. Whether it’s triple option or RPO it’s hard to stop. Your kids have to play assignment football and not take gambles. For a lot of high school kids that slows them down and they get anxious or curious and want to always make a play. That’s what offenses like that are made to do.

Do you feel it helps your skill players to be involved in 7on7 tourneys?

There are some pros and cons to 7 on 7. But I personally believe that with how the game has changed and is changing 7 on 7’s are necessary. Going to these tournaments plays a critical role in developing skill players awareness of concepts and schemes that we want them to learn in our offenses and defenses. I also believe that it gives your kids a chance to compete and get quality game-like reps.

Can you tell the readers what you do as a head coach to get your players recruited?

One of the ways I go about doing this is having a prospect list of all our kids that are wanting to play at the next level. The list is comprised of our kids in their respective classes, along with GPA, ACT Scores, Hudl link, email, phone number, and Twitter handle. I have a list of college coaches who I email this list to. I’m also a big fan of social media and I make sure my athletes use social media to promote themselves. Believe it or not, I’ve spoken to more coaches on Twitter than I have through email or by phone. I’ll send them the prospect list through there. I promote our players and their accomplishments through posts. Lastly, reaching out and setting up visits and getting the kids in front of coaches camps have been a great way to promote our guys. I started a camp circuit this spring that will continue through June where we travel to different camps all over Ohio and some of the Midwest just to get our guys in front of these coaches for an opportunity to play in college.

What are your thoughts on playing out-of-state opponents?

I love the idea of playing out-of-state opponents. I like seeing how different programs from other areas are attacking their seasons within the rules of their respective states. I would love to play an out-of-state opponent to see how we match up with teams within a different region.

Is it important for the JV squad to run the same offense and defense as the varsity along with the same language as far as calls go? If so can you explain why and if not could you also explain why?

To me, it’s very important that our JV run the same offense and defense as the varsity. There has to be some consistency in the program from a schematic standpoint that allows you to develop your kids. Now, with that said there may be some things that you can do with your varsity that you can’t do with your JV and that all plays into development and using what you got. You’ve got to be able to adapt and adjust to the type of kids you have. But as far as keeping the same verbiage and same system throughout I believe it’s a must.

Which loss was the toughest to take last year?

The toughest loss last year was to Nelsonville-York. It was for our conference title and going into that game it was the first time in over 15 years that we as a school had competed for a conference championship in football. You could tell that the kids and the community wanted it really bad and to lose that game hurt really bad. Although it hurt we learned and moved on but just to be in that position was such a blessing and a great experience for our kids. After looking back on that game our kids understand what it’s going to take to be on that level

Which win from last year was the most gratifying?


The most gratifying win last year was our week 1 win over Unioto. The kids battled through so much adversity that game and it came down to a goal line stand interception for us to win the game. So much happened during that game that most would think that we’d just lay down and they would win. But the kids just took it one play at a time and battled! At the end of the game, our kids were so tired they were literally crawling off the field. during my post game speech I looked up and the kids were crying. They couldn’t believe after everything they had been through they won that game it was a sight to see!

What is your favorite football movie?

Graduating from Marshall my Herd Brothers would be disappointed if I didn’t say “We Are Marshall” I love that movie! I love the story! I love how a young team faced with so much adversity overcame it and rose from the ashes. I love how an entire community rallied behind a young team that was thrown to the wolves no matter the outcome of the season! Marshall has a great fan base and whenever I’m in Huntington it’s like I never left. It’s my home and the story of Marshall is a part of who I am and how I operate.


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