WAYNESBORO, Ga. — Eric Parker wanted to handle offensive coordinator duties himself – at least that’s what he originally planned when he agreed to become Burke County’s head coach prior to the 2007 season.
In talking with Bears assistant coach Jim Dye for the first time, Parker shared his playbook – some plays worked, some needed adjustments.
Two weeks later, with Parker listening, Dye answered each problem, moving players and improving pass-protection schemes.
“I said, ‘There’s my offensive coordinator right there,’ ” Parker said. “I’ve given it to him and never looked back.”
Now in their fifth season together at Burke County, Parker and Dye have helped coach the offense to more than 45 points per game this year. The Bears need 45 more points to set the state’s season scoring record.
Dye has been on staff since 2006. Going back to his stint as a student assistant at Georgia Southern in 1984 and in the national championship year of 1985, Dye has made frequent coaching stops through the years.
Dye, who was a walk-on at Georgia before eventually playing at Georgia Southern, was a graduate assistant at Auburn in 1986-87, getting to work for his uncle, Pat Dye. The Tigers went a combined 19-3-2 those seasons.
“He came from a football family,” said Pat Dye, winner of 99 games at Auburn (153 total victories in his career) and a College Football Hall of Fame inductee. “You can’t be around the Dye household and not be involved with football.”
After assisting on the Plains, Dye became head coach at Hephzibah (1988-89) and later had coaching stops at Valdosta State (1990-91), East Tennessee State (1992), Troy (1993-2002), Rutland High School (2003-04) and Mary Persons High School (2005) before arriving at Burke County.
Dye has spent most of his coaching career as an offensive line coach, but he’s picked up ideas and adjusted his coaching style everywhere he’s been.
“When you stop improving as a coach, then you’re not digging deep enough,” Dye said. “To me, you’re not trying hard enough.”
The growing and improving include his tenure at Hephzibah, where Dye went 1-19 and used different offensive formations to try to make up for talent gaps.
“It taught me that no matter how hard you try, you’re not always going to be as successful as you want to be,” Dye said. “There’s something to that. There’s something to learning how to lose. That’s absolutely not fun whatsoever, but there’s something to that.”
Just as it was back then, the learning never stops.
This season, as he coached a dominant offensive line – where his son, Jay, starts at center – and a variety of weapons, Dye worked on technical skills and blocking schemes.
He’s also realized it’s better to get simpler as the playoffs continue.
When Dye first came to Burke County, the Bears were running the Wing-T. Now the team runs a no-huddle attack, calling plays quickly and forcing defenses to do the same. When he calls a play, Dye said he doesn’t even know exactly who’s in there 90 percent of the time, as he trusts both the players out there on the field and the coaches to put in the right personnel.
“He’s the brains behind the whole operation of the offense, pretty much,” senior running back Montres Kitchens said.
Considering the change in scoring since Hephzibah, where the Rebels averaged 7.6 points per game those two seasons, Dye is appreciative of where he is now and all the lessons he’s received.
Since the start of his coaching days, Dye has seen the highs like a national championship triumph and a Sugar Bowl berth as well as the lows many coaches experience.
But looking at where he is now, Dye is embracing the present.
“It looks like we got a chance to win for a lot of years to come,” Dye said. “I am thankful for how blessed we are right now.”
Staff writer Chris Gay contributed to this story.