By Chris Yow
If you can’t beat ’em twice, join ’em.
Former Shelbyville Central football coach Justin Palmer was officially announced on Wednesday, May 27, as the new offensive coordinator at Summit, joining Brian Coleman’s staff.
Friends first, coaching rivals second, Palmer said Coleman was among the first people to reach out to him following his untimely dismissal from Shelbyville, where he compiled a 33-14 record in four seasons.
“Coach Coleman and I have been friends for a long time, and he reached out as soon as he heard, not to try and offer me a position, but just to check on me,” Palmer added. “That meant a lot to me.”
Palmer was fired in February despite coming off a Class 5A quarterfinal berth where his team — which defeated Summit 42-25 in a regular-season region contest — lost to the Spartans 20-12 a month later, preventing the first state semifinal appearance in program history.
According to Palmer, his dismissal from the program after an 11-2 finish was due to a personal family matter eventually resolved by him and his wife, Brittany.
The Eagles’ loss is Summit’s gain, though, and both Coleman and Palmer are excited about the future.
“We are extremely excited and blessed to have him come join our staff,” Coleman said. “(Palmer) brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team and our staff. We couldn’t be happier to have him.”
Spreading it out
Known for his balanced spread offense, Palmer takes over a unit that averaged just over 29 points per game and returns the bulk of its skill players for 2020, including twins Destin and Keaten Wade. Palmer’s vast experience with the spread offense will be a positive for the two.
“I really think I can help Destin become the quarterback he wants to be,” Palmer said. “I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to talk with him yet, but when we sit down and decide what kind of player he wants to be for Summit and at the next level, I know I can help him.”
Destin was 87-of-164 passing for 1,341 yards with 17 touchdowns in 2019. He also rushed for 727 yards and had 10 rushing TDs. At Shelbyville, Palmer’s team averaged just under 170 yards passing and 184 yards on the ground per game in 2019.
Taking a step back
Going from head coach to coordinator seems like a step back career-wise, but Palmer looks at this as an opportunity to take a step back to his roots. Without having to focus on other aspects of the team — defense, special teams — he can focus on putting together the best possible offensive game plan.
“It’s a little bit of a relief; there will definitely be less stress,” he said. “I had several offers to be a coordinator and even a few head coaching offers, but I felt this was the best opportunity for me and my career at this point.”
In their first staff meeting together, Palmer said he had to adjust his brain to remind himself when to jump into the conversations.
“I held my hand over my mouth to keep myself from talking because I’m usually the one doing all the talking,” he laughed. “I’m sure there will be moments when I have to keep myself from speaking out of turn, but (Coleman) and I have such a great friendship I don’t think it will make a difference.”
That friendship and experience may also help Coleman.
“He’s going to give us another educated opinion on the sideline when difficult decisions have to be made,” Coleman said. “We are happy to have his expertise to lean on.”
The pair are undoubtedly ready to take on the task of achieving the same goal on the same team for a change.
“Hopefully we can come together and get back to Cookeville and bring home a gold ball this time,” Palmer said.
Chris Yow is the multimedia director for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ChrisYow14.