Posted: 9:31 am Friday, November 21st, 2008
By Jason Lieser
Rookie head coach Darren Studstill makes his playoff debut tonight as his Royal Palm Beach Wildcats host Palm Beach Lakes.
The Wildcats have one of the best coaching staffs in the area, led by Studstill. When he walks into a team meeting, he immediately has the players’ attention, silence and respect. Not every coach can say that in this era.
Studstill has been coaching at Royal Palm Beach in various capacities over the last eight years. He took over for former coach Eric Patterson this season.
Studstill was a standout quarterback at Palm Beach Gardens and West Virginia, and spent some time as a defensive back in the NFL and the World League. Back in September, Post staff writer Hal Habib wrote a very good profile of Studstill, which is worth revisiting.
In a wide-ranging interview this week, Studstill talked about his team’s upcoming playoff run, recapped some of the Wildcats’ successes this season and discussed a few other topics. Here are the highlights:
Q: I know you don’t like to look ahead, but it seems like you have to at this point in the season. Are you preparing already for the Park Vista-Vero Beach winner?
DS: “You don’t want to, but you have to to be successful. We have designated coaches to take care of that. Myself, I look at this week’s game because that’s what I’m asking my players to do. I want to be in tune with the kids.
“The good thing about Park Vista is that we’ve played them before… so all we have to do is pull from that. Vero is a different beast. We have to go and scout them.
“You have to take care of this play. If I’m thinking about the next three plays, how can I take care of this one? That’s been my philosophy, and I think the kids have adopted that. I think that’s why they’ve responded to the big games that we’ve had.”
Q: Any pressure off your back by going 9-1 this season?
DS: “I’ve been in playoff situations and bowl games, so I know the expectations are all on me and what I expect. I expect to be at state. I expect to run to the top. All the other expectations, I feel them, but at the same time, I don’t feel them.
“I know we have high expectations, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted this job. I wanted to help raise the expectations. We had expectations within ourselves to go 10-0.”
Q: Are you even aware of what the public expects from you and this team?
DS: “Being a quarterback, I was taught when I was young to never read the paper. When I’m good, you guys are going to tell me I’m better than what I am. When I’m not that good, you guys are going to say I’m even worse. I stopped reading the sports. I always just read the business paper. I just started reading the sports again, just because the kids know everything you guys print.”
Q: Is former head coach Eric Patterson, your long-time friend, still involved here?
DS: “Yes. I try to get him involved. He’s been great, but I respect that he stepped away because he has kids. He helped me out on the little things, off the field, and I appreciate that. It’s good to have him around.
“This is his baby. This is like Jimmy Johnson getting all those players together and then leaving. This is his. These kids were engrained under his regime. I just try to keep it all together.”
Q: As a former quarterback, do you pay extra attention to your QB, Marvin Payne?
DS: “I do, but the good thing about having quality coaches is I’m given the opportunity to manage more than coach. I want to put my stamp on things, but in transition, it’s best for me to have an overall picture.
“I’ve been very, very pleased with his progression to this point. He’s controlling the ball. He’s taken some sacks, but he’s not turning the ball over. With our defense, if the quarterback can not turn the ball over, then we have a chance. We’ve been very, very fortunate.”
Q: With this particular team, I don’t think anyone questions the defense. With that being said, does your playoff success hinge on offensive consistency?
DS: “We’re trying to get more consistency on offense, but our defense and special teams have been very good. But our offense is right there, ready to catch up with our special teams and our defense.
“It’s just finishing our drives. We get good drives and sputter at the end, but now we’re doing better. And it’s about ball control. Before we were three-and-out a lot, which put a lot of pressure on our defense. Now we’re getting more ball control. Even if we haven’t scored a lot of points, we’ve kept the other team’s offense off the field. In the playoffs, you’re not going to lay out and score 50-some points, so you have to be able to ball control.”