WEST LIBERTY - A few short years after rewriting the NCAA Division II record book, former All-American quarterback Zach Amedro is returning to the West Liberty sidelines as an assistant coach.
Amedro, who set numerous NCAA Division II offensive records as the Hilltopper quarterback from 2007-10, was brought aboard as the new quarterbacks coach at his alma mater when coach Roger Waialae reshuffled his staff during the off-season.
A local product who played his high school football at John Marshall High School, Amedro couldn't be happier.
"Ever since I stopped playing, I've always wanted to coach," Amedro said earlier this week as he and his fellow WLU coaches finalized preparations for the start of spring practice. "I never let up on Coach Waialae about that so when he called and said he had an opening, I just said, 'Yes!' I didn't even care what it paid. I just wanted a chance to coach at the collegiate level. With all the great memories and the great people, having the opportunity to come back here for my first coaching job just makes it that much more special."
When Amedro took off his helmet for the final time after the 2010 season, the two-time All-American had set NCAA Division II career records for passing yards (14, 733), passing yards per game (334.8 ypg.), 300-yard passing games (30), 300-yard total offense games (29), consecutive 300-yard passing games (14) and consecutive 300-yard total offense games (14). He also ranked No. 2 all-time in pass completions (1,079), touchdown passes (126), total offense (14,598) and total offense per game (331.8 ypg.).
"Zach will be the first quarterback coach we've had," Waialae said. "With me taking on offensive coordinator responsibilities as part of the changes we've made, I wanted to bring in somebody to focus 100 percent on the quarterbacks. I think it's the hardest position to play in any sport because you have to make a lot of quick decisions, get your team out of bad plays and into good plays and still execute at a high level physically. Zach didn't get nearly enough credit for his ability to do that during his playing days.
"That's what makes him such a great fit because Zach's the kind of kid who remembers everything. He already knew the system and what I want in every situation so he was able to step right in and teach from Day One as opposed to me bringing in a new coach who would have to learn the system from the ground up. I know our quarterbacks are really excited to have their own coach this season, especially one with Zach's credentials. As coaches, we're really excited to have Zach as part of our staff."
As Waialae noted, that staff was reshuffled over the winter. After the record-setting numbers of the Amedro years, the pass-oriented Hilltopper offense has fallen off the pace. Waialae wants to find a run-pass mix that will be the best fit for his current roster.
"We've been strictly a 4-wide team on offense since Zach's junior season," Waialae said, "but we need to get back into some sets that will make us a threat to run the ball as well as throw it. We have run a variety of personnel packages since I've been here but we settled on that 4-wide set when Zach was here because that was what worked best with our personnel at the time. We're going to look at a lot of packages in the spring and see what works best with this group of players."
With that in mind, Waialae will serve as his own offensive coordinator this year while also coaching the wide receivers. Dan Hopkins will stay with the offensive line while Chuck Haggerty moves from running backs to tight ends and H-backs. Abu Ma'afala switches from linebackers to running backs and will remain in charge of special teams with Amedro in charge of the quarterbacks.
On the defensive side of the ball, associate head coach Brad Forshey will stay with the defensive line while defensive coordinator Jeff Monteroso will also coach the linebackers. Angel Estrada switches from wide receivers to deep safeties while Curt McGhee and Mark Spigarelli return with the cornerbacks and strong safeties, respectively.
"After breaking down all the game films from last year, I think there's good potential with the quarterbacks we have returning," Amedro said. "We've also signed a couple of guys who will be here in August so we'll have great competition. This is a great opportunity and I can't wait to get out on the field and get started."