ALBANY -- For Mike Janis, taking the Albany football coaching job is like coming full circle.
Janis, who spent last season as receivers coach at Walker, was introduced as the Hornets’ coach Monday.
“This just was an opportunity to come back to a place I really enjoyed and work with an up-and-coming program that has really turned the corner in that last few years,” said Janis, a first-time head coach, who took his first teaching job at Albany in 2009 before moving to Springfield in 2012. “I couldn’t imagine a better situation than what’s happened here.”
Janis takes over for Blane Westmoreland, who resigned last week to join the staff at Live Oak. He commended the Westmoreland and his staff, citing that as was one of the main factors in returning.
“They have built up a program,” Janis said. “Looking from the outside in, and having to play those guys when I was at Springfield, you see year-in and year-out the development of this team, and year-in and year-out, they get better and they get better. The foundation has been laid. It’s here already. This is a good football team. (It’s) an opportunity to build upon something and do things that have never been done before.”
Albany principal Kim Freeman, who worked with Janis when she was assistant principal at Springfield, said he was perfect for the job.
“I think this was a place that he had dreamed to come back to,” Freeman said. “I think he’ll fit into the community well and be a good fit for the kids. It will be some big shoes to fill with Coach Westmoreland because the kids and parents really liked him, but I think Mike Janis will fit right in.”
In the wake of Westmoreland’s departure as head football coach and athletic director, Albany girls basketball coach Stacy Darouse is taking over as athletics director.
It’s been a whirlwind for Janis, who was coaching on the Wildcats’ staff last Wednesday during 7-on-7 drills, but has already done some film study on his new team.
“I’m seeing a lot of athletes – a lot of talented football players,” said Janis. “Obviously, they had two 2,000-yard rushers (Kamryn Mayers and Brad Lewis) on offense (last season). These kids can run the football. They play sound defense, and I see a bunch of kids who are hard-nosed and want to win.”
Janis is hoping to expand on the Wing-T offense that was a staple during Westmoreland’s tenure.
“We don’t want to venture too far from the Wing-T, because this is what these kids know,” Janis said. “They’ve been running it for the last five or six years, and this is what they’re comfortable with. We don’t want to remove the program from the Wing-T but maybe look at building on to that in ways we can get the athletes that are here the ball in space a little more.”
One of the biggest challenges for Janis is replacing Mayers and Lewis, who graduated.
“We have some upperclassmen who I can already tell are good leaders,” Janis said after meeting with most of the team Monday morning. “I know just because they didn’t necessarily play running back doesn’t mean they can’t play running back. There’s skill here to replace those positions and there’s a group of young players who are extremely talented who are coming up. I think we’ve got a good mix of veteran leadership and young athletes, and I look forward to taking on that challenge.”
Janis said the defensive scheme won’t change from a base 4-2-5 look that was installed in the spring.
Janis said his address to the team focused on ‘minor rule changes and expectations’ and his philosophy for the program, which he said won’t change greatly with the return of the Hornets' coaching staff nearly intact.
“What they were doing before has helped them to develop into the successful program they are,” Janis said. “Obviously, I don’t want to take away from what’s made them successful.”
He also wants to make sure he establishes a relationship with each of his players.
“Getting to know them is objective No. 1,” Janis said. “I want them to know who I am, what I’m about, and I want to know them. I want to see them on the field. I want to see their skill sets and know what they’re going to bring to the table, and I want them to know what I’m going to bring to the table.”
With such a tight window between the coaching change and the start of the season, Janis said there’s no time to waste, saying he stressed efficiency to the team.
“We just need to get to work,” Janis said. “That’s the biggest thing. We talked to the kids about winning. Our intention this summer is to win every rep in the weight room, every sprint in conditioning, and we’re just going to get better every day. That’s the goal.
“We’re going to come in here, and we’re going to hit the weights hard,” Janis said. “We’re going to get them conditioned, ready to go, and we’re going to immediately start to have the kids learning the scheme offensively, defensively, so that way whenever we come into fall, they’re ready to go.”