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‘New’ assistant coaches join University football program as three-weeks kick off

MORGANTOWN — Eric Snyder had a slight tug at his heartstrings heading into this football season, but that same tug is the reason he was out of football the last two years.

He was the defensive coordinator at University High under head coach John Kelley for several seasons prior to 2018, but between games, practices, lifts and every other responsibility that comes with coaching football, he was missing time with his oldest stepson, Jack Hudson.

Hudson was a state-qualifying golfer at Morgantown High, but with overlapping schedules with football, Snyder missed most of his tournaments.

“It went by in a blink and I missed almost all of it,” Snyder said.

He decided family came first, so Snyder decided to step away from coaching and spend time watching his younger stepson, Luke Hudson, play basketball and run track at Mountaineer Middle.

But now, as Hudson is set to start his sophomore year at UHS this fall, the same emotional response that made Snyder want to step away from coaching brought him back.

“When Luke was about to be a freshman last year, he came up to his mom and I and said, ‘I want to play football,’ so I was like, ‘All right!’ ” Snyder said. “I wanted him to figure it out and coach Kelley told me they’d be running the offense I designed before I resigned, so I was able to teach him a thing or two.

“He liked what I told him so he asked if I would come back (to coaching), so if he’s requesting me as a parent, you have to take that opportunity.”

Hudson could be the backup quarterback behind two-year starter Chase Edwards this season and he will work directly under Snyder, now the team’s offensive coordinator. With his previous staff experience as the defensive coordinator, Snyder was asked by Kelley to design an offensive game plan four or five years ago, and Snyder’s philosophy was to “come up with something that would drive me nuts as a defensive coach.”

UHS wanted a fresh start on the coaching staff with the only returning paid staffers being Kelley and Donnie Gilbert, along with volunteer assistant Rich Braham.

With an opening at offensive coordinator and Snyder’s desire to return, it was the perfect time to come back.

“The pieces just fell into place,” he said. “Coach Kelley is an amazing person to work for and now that I’m back, I realize how much I missed him. He’s a mentor to me and just someone that’s great to have in life instead of just football. He just asked me if I wanted to be the offensive coordinator and I figured that was a good idea since I helped design this offense.”

Donnie Tucker is back with the Hawks after an extended absence. He began coaching at MHS in 1995 and joined Kelley’s staff at UHS later on before eventually leaving to be the head coach at Jefferson, and then worked at an academic advisor with the WVU football program under Rich Rodriguez.

“Donnie Tucker has about as much football experience as I do,” said Kelley, who is set to begin his 35th season as the UHS head coach.

Justin Hensley joins the staff as the new defensive coordinator after spending time at Linsly and John Marshall. His father, Ralph, was the head coach at Riverside for six years and won four state titles as a head coach at East Bank.

Joey Plevich, who played under John Bowers and Matt Lacy at MHS from 2014-17, also joined Kelley’s staff.

“I’m really excited about this new staff and like the enthusiasm they’ve brought in,” Kelley said.

The Hawks began the three-weeks summer workout period Monday and are coming off a shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19 stoppages, where they went 3-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Musselman.

UHS will kick off its season Aug. 27, hosting John Marshall.

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