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Quirks of Plant's co-defensive coordinators culminate in a cohesive plan.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published December 6, 2006
TAMPA - James Harrell and John Few are Plant's co-defensive coordinators and, quite frankly, sometimes they butt heads.
But, head coach Bob Weiner said, "in a good way."
Harrell and Few, who have helped lead the Panthers within one win of their first state title, have opposite personalities.
Harrell is more matter-of-fact, Few more matter-of-consideration. But, Weiner said, "they complement each other perfectly."
Harrell and Few communicate in drastically different ways, Harrell of the "less is more" variety, Few of the "let's discuss thoroughly" persuasion. But, Weiner said, "both get their points across."
Harrell - "the mad X's and O's scientist," Weiner said - calls all the defenses and, for the most part, makes all in-game adjustments, which is fine with Few.
"Are you kidding?" Few said. "James is the best game-time adjuster in the history of the world. Seriously, I bet there isn't anyone who adjusts better during a game. No one."
Few said that makes sense because Harrell "lived the game for many years," playing linebacker from the late 1970s and '80s at Chamberlain before walking on at the University of Florida and playing nine seasons in the NFL (with the Lions and Chiefs) and two with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL.
When Harrell makes an adjustment, that's when Few works his magic, communicating the changes to the team.
"(Few) is good at that. He really is," Harrell said.
That makes sense because Few, a defensive back at Jesuit and Princeton in the late 1970s and early '80s, is a renaissance man of sorts, trading stocks by day for Raymond James and dabbling in theatre when he isn't coaching at night.
In the end, it helps that these completely different people have worked together for many years, beginning at Jesuit as defensive assistants in 1993. A few years later, Harrell was named the Tigers' defensive coordinator, a position he kept until 2003 when coach Dominic Ciao retired. That's when Harrell took a job in NFL Europe and Few was named Tigers defensive coordinator.
In 2005, following an internship with the Lions, Harrell returned to Tampa. He and Few talked with Weiner, who asked if they'd like to join him at Plant.
"When both accepted, I thought, well, how can I make one a defensive coordinator over the other one, and I also thought, I don't think these guys will have a problem being co-coordinators," Weiner said. "I was right!"
The results, particularly when you look at the Panthers' improvement through this season (Plant gave up 300 rushing yards against a weak Bloomingdale team in the season's first game), have been nothing short of remarkable.
Plant allows 13 points per game and forced 17 turnovers in its four playoff wins, including six in a region final victory over Armwood.
In Friday's 20-15 state semifinal win over Miami Washington, the Panthers held one of the most explosive offenses in the state scoreless in the second half, intercepting three passes and pouncing on two fumbles.
"James made some great adjustments at halftime," Few said. "But then, I knew he would."
Then Few was there to break it down in simpler terms for the players.
Easy for him to do because, Few said, "we learned this defense together," getting plenty of tips from Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whose son, Chris, played for Jesuit in the 1990s.
"Believe it or not," Few said, "We think the exact same way when it comes to this defense."
This week, Weiner said, Harrell and Few are working ahead as usual, preparing for Saturday's Class 4A state final at 1 p.m. in Miami's Dolphin Stadium, where Plant (14-0) takes on Ponte Vedra Beach Nease (14-0).
Yes, his co-coordinators have broken down hours and hours of tape. Yes, they have squabbled over ideas. Yes, they have arrived at a cohesive game plan.
"And yes," Weiner said, "together, as always, they have done a great job."