New head coach Shinlever starts to build football staff, plan for next fall

Coach Morgan Shinlever had always planned on someday being a head football coach, but he never envisioned that the program he would take over would be Bearden High School’s.

“I never thought about Bearden,” Coach Shinlever said. “I didn’t foresee Coach (Brad) Taylor ever stepping down… And when I got into the administration role I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just stay on as the athletic director and be an assistant coach and I’ll be happy.’”

However, after just two years of serving as Bearden’s athletics director, his hopes for taking the reins of a program became a reality sooner than he had expected.

Coach Shinlever started out playing football in youth leagues and playing his way up through the elite Maryville High School system where he was a standout football player, but he acquired his love for the game from sitting and watching football games with his dad when he was a kid.

He went on to play at Maryville College and was hired by Greenback High School in Loudon County as an assistant coach right out of college. In 2006, Bearden offered him a position as an assistant under the late Coach Bill Wilson, as well as a teaching position.

“I was looking to take that next step in my career, and Bearden offered a lot of opportunities professionally,” Coach Shinlever said. “I just didn’t think that I could pass that up.”

Transitioning to a new coaching position can be tough on anyone; however, not every coach is blessed with Coach Shinlever’s situation of already being familiar with the team.

“It’s definitely been an easier transition than compar[ed] to getting a brand new coach,” junior linebacker Griffin Delong said. “It’s good because all of the other players all know him and they all have somewhat of a relationship with him.”

Coach Shinlever said that his ultimate goal is to train up these young men to be their best on and off the field. In order to fulfill his goal, he said that he will implement several community service projects throughout the season as well as team building activities on every Tuesday starting in June.

“That’s something that [Bearden soccer] Coach [Eric] Turner has done with his soccer teams here,” he said. “I’ve seen it from a distance, and I think that it’s very beneficial.”

To keep each player accountable, Coach Shinlever is planning on creating a players council where they will have representatives from each grade level. The council will operate much like SGA, except it’s designed solely for the football team.

The new staff will still include defensive coordinator Brian Tanner and Coach Hunter Fendley. Coach Fendley will continue to work with the offensive line, but he will carry the new title of associate head coach.

The school is still in the process of arranging the staff, including hiring a new offensive coordinator.

“It is a process that we have not taken lightly, trying to get the right people to fill the roles needed to best help the program and the kids,” Coach Fendley said. “[But] it’s been a fun process.”

The Bulldogs will see some shifts in both their offensive and defensive systems.

“We have a base, and we are building around that base,” Coach Fendley said. “It’s the same thing on defense with Coach Tanner.

“We are not running the same defenses as in years past; we are changing to a new defense, and Coach Tanner is in the process of putting that together.”

Their offensive formations will, however, look similar in that they will run a two-back and three-receiver offense. They will also add some two-tight end formations as well.

The biggest challenge that the team will face is learning the new terminology, but Coach Fendley said that he thinks they will easily adapt to the changes.

“(Coach Shinlever) is a disciplinarian,” Delong said. “He prides himself in that, and he’s a perfectionist. And that’s what you want to have in a head coach, and I think that he’s the right man for the job because of that.”