Following the departure of offensive coordinator Jamie Williams, the Smiths Station Panthers have turned to a veteran coach as his replacement.
Smiths Station has tabbed former Cottonwood head coach John Gilmore to replace Williams, who is stepping away from head coaching to become an assistant principal at Smiths Station. Gilmore joins the Panthers with 24 years of coaching experience under his belt, including the last four seasons as the Bears head coach.
Gilmore leaves Cottonwood with a 13-27 record. He is one of two new coordinators for Smiths Station, as the Panthers hired former Central-Phenix City assistant Bryan Eason to run the defense.
“I decided it was a good move to try my luck at the 7A level. I may not get another opportunity because I am 24 years in (the system). I decided it was the right time,” Gilmore said. “It was just an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It has nothing to do with Cottonwood. I would have regretted it one day if I didn’t do this — at least trying to be in the highest division in football and trying my luck.”
Gilmore took over the Bears program prior to the 2016 season and led a steady rise up in his first three seasons, going from two wins in his debut season to three in 2017 and five in 2018. That five-win campaign proved to be his most productive at the Class 2A program, as the Bears went 3-7 in 2019 but did end the year with victories in two of their final three games.
Prior to taking over at Cottonwood, Gilmore was an assistant coach at Eufaula for 18 years and spent the last 10 of those years as the team’s offensive coordinator. During that time, the Tigers won 155 games, captured six area titles and played for the 2006 Class 5A state title game.
Gilmore came to Eufaula following one season as an assistant at Headland in 1996 and one season at Carroll in 1997.
Gilmore said he didn’t know Smiths Station head coach Mike Glisson before, but the two knew of each other through their various coaching stops throughout the state. Gilmore plans to run an offense built around a pro-set, downhill running style where the I-formation is the primary formation and the running game helps open up play-action passing.
For Glisson, bringing in Gilmore to replace Williams, who Glisson had coached with at previous stops, couldn’t have worked out any better.
“It’s tremendous. John is a guy who’s coached a long time,” Glisson said. “He’s been in some really good football programs, and he’s just a tremendous person. I like his philosophy of offense and his attention to detail, and those things are going to be great for our offense. I’m just excited about him coming in and bringing his knowledge and his work ethic and his leadership for our kids. It’s going to be a great thing.”
Gilmore will help the Smiths Station try and get back on track on offense in 2020. The Panthers took an unexpected step back last fall following a six-win campaign in 2018, as the team went 2-8 thanks to an eight-game losing streak to end the year. The Smiths Station offense averaged 16.4 points per game in 2019; by comparison, region champion Central averaged 37.1.
While there’s plenty of work ahead, Gilmore was particularly drawn to how many more hands will be on deck at Smiths Station, a Class 7A program, than what he was working with before.
“In a 7A school, we will have a two-and-half hour practice just on offense the whole time. Defense will be on its own field, so you will have more time (on offense),” Gilmore said. “With that much preparation, you can put in a lot of things — a lot more complicated schemes — than I could here at Cottonwood when (the players) played three ways and they had to learn offense, defense and special teams and you were limited on time. Plus there are seven coaches just on offense (at Smiths Station) versus seven coaches for everything we have here.”