John Tyler faced an ideal scenario as the spring football season neared, with only a handful of starters needing to be replaced from a state semifinalist team.
Turns out the Lions may be replacing its head coach of the last five years.
Dereck Rush, who has guided JT to 35 wins over the last three years, including a pair of trips to the state quarterfinals, will be recommended for hire as the next coach at Oak Ridge High School at the Conroe ISD school board meeting today.
Rush interviewed for the open position last week with Conroe athletic director Danny Long. Rush received his first head coaching job while Long served as Tyler ISD’s athletic director, a post he held through the 2010-11 school year.
Rush recently made history as the first coach to lead JT to three consecutive district titles. His pending departure means JT must move quick to replace one of only two coaches, along with Allen Wilson, to guide the school to three-straight 10-win seasons. Only Wilson coached more teams (nine) to the playoffs than Rush, who guided JT to the playoffs in four of five seasons on the job.
The decision comes at an awkward time, with JT expected to be contend for a state championship in 2012. Conroe Oak Ridge struggled last year going 1-9 in Class 5A, leading to the removal of Bob Barrett as head coach and athletic director after he posted a 28-45 record in seven seasons.
Rush, a native of Philadelphia, Miss. who starred in college as a linebacker at Mississippi State, has experience leading a 1-9 team. JT won only one game in Rush’s first season in 2007, tying a school record for futility. Rush, who spent time coaching in West Texas before coming to JT, holds a 42-23 overall record as head coach.
JT reached the state quarterfinals in its last year in 5A (2009) and first year in 4A (2010) under. The Lions achieved a national ranking in 2009, a regional ranking in 2010 and a state ranking to start the 2011 season.
The high-scoring ‘09 team featured the likes of Jeremy Johnson, who won Texas player of the year honors before signing with SMU, and other standouts now with TCU such as David Bush and Ricky Collins.
The ’10 group produced 31 interceptions and 49 takeaways behind the likes of Ashton Dorsey (Texas) and Chris Hackett (TCU) on defense.
Rush, who makes close to $100,000 at his current post, worked as a JT defensive assistant from 2003-2006 under Kelvin Ratliff and for two seasons under Thomas Brooks.
Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine ranked JT No. 1 in its preseason 2012 Class 4A rankings.
And with good reason, seeing JT returns 17 players with starting experience and a handful of Division I recruits, including a pair of all-state players in quarterback Greg Ward and receiver Fred Ross. Two potential threats, a Midway team who beat JT in the Class 4A Division I state semifinals, and a Lake Travis squad who won the title, both moved up to 5A during realignment in February.
The 2011 Lions logged arguably the best season in school history, finishing 11-4 after setting school records for most points (645), average points (43.0), 40-point games (11), 50-point games (six), passing yards (3,734) and passing touchdowns (34).