After spending the last three years as the head coach of the East Knox football program, Joe Ulrey is returning to Morrow County to take the helm of the Mount Gilead program.
Ulrey, a former standout for the Highland Scots, made the move to MG after working to turn around the Bulldog program. East Knox was 1-9 in his first two years there before improving to a 6-4 mark last year.
Now, his job will be to improve the fortunes of a Mount Gilead team that hasn’t reached the .500 mark since 2008 and hasn’t had a winning record since 2004.
In the coach’s mind, the team is close to making that move, as he noted that a few plays here and there could have made a big difference last year.
“Last year, they were 4-6, but lost a number of games by a touchdown or less,” he said. “We’re a team that’s knocking on the door. We just have to find a way to win.”
Ulrey, who graduated from Denison in 2009, had coached for a year at Highland before moving on to assist at Kenyon, Denison and Lindsey Wilson College (Kentucky) prior to taking the East Knox job. He chose to come to Mount Gilead due to wanting to teach and coach closer to home, as he lives in the district. Now that he’s in place, he’s been hard at work implementing his style of play.
“There’s a lot of change in regards to what’s been done in the past,” he said. “With camp and two-a-days, there’s been a lot of learning. The older guys picked up on it quick and the last few days, the younger guys have been learning.”
The coach went on to explain his offensive and defensive philosophies.
“We’ll run a multi-formation spread,” he said. “As long as we have a little bit of possession and not turn the ball over, we’ll be okay. We’re very thin in the skill positions, although we got a couple kids back who hadn’t played football recently, so that’ll help. With today’s offenses, you have to play multiple defenses, so that’s what we’ll do. If you’re sitting in a singular defense, you’ll be in trouble.”
With all the teaching going on, Ulrey has a simple philosophy of simply improving on a daily basis.
“The thing for use is to get better every day,” he said. “With a new offense and defense, it’s been ‘take care of business today’”.
In the past two years, MG has had the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Blue Division Player of the Year in Deondre Cook (2015) and Jonah Barnett (2016), but could only muster four wins each year. This year, Ulrey feels his players have a clean slate.
“The thing that’s been good for us is that we have a clean slate offensively and defensively,” he said. “We put everyone back on page one and then grow as a group from there.”
As the season approaches, Ulrey noted that the most important thing is to simple establish the proper mindset.
“The big thing is changing the mindset and culture and getting back to mental discipline,” he said. “As long as we stick to the philosophy of hard work and toughness, we’re reap that eventually.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS