There are few people who are more at home at Spalding High School than Spalding High offensive coordinator Thomas Hoffmann.
After all, Hoffmann, the son of Kirk Hoffmann (2000-05), the Jags first head coach in modern times, virtually grew up at Spalding High. He later attended Spalding where he lettered in both football and soccer before following in his dad’s footsteps and embarking upon a coaching career post college.
He spent the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons as the offensive line coach under then Griffin High head coach Antonio Andrews at Griffin High across town.
“That first year, it was a blessing,” Hoffmann said about landing a position coaching the Bears offensive line alongside of Harold Layton. “I had connections, Layton and the athletic trainer, Mitch Duncan, and obviously Dr. (Darrell) Evans and dad worked together at Spalding and it was just a good situation for me.”
“And we had a good little run, the three years over there with coach Andrews leading the ship,” he added. “That time frame is when I met coach (Carl) Kearney, (and) coach Kearney and I have stayed in contact.”
It paid off but not before Hoffmann went to Spalding as the offensive line coach under then-Jags head coach Jeffery Hammond in 2019.
“As everyone knows, Griffin is home but Spalding is my alma mater,” said Hoffmann. “So I came over here and met.”
“The big thing woking with Jeff (Hammond) was the opportunity to grow,” added Hoffmann, of Hammond who was the offensive coordinator under legendary high school coach Rush Propst at Colquitt County before taking the head coaching job at Spalding. “He’s very smart offensive mind, and that was a big thing for me ... I saw that as an opportunity to grow and learn.”
Last season, current Spalding head coach Carl Kearney took over the program and fairly early on named Hoffmann the Jags new offensive coordinator.
“I was fortunate enough he kept me on ...,” said Hoffmann, who was the only carry-over from the previous staff.
Hoffmann is expecting big things from his offense when he begins his second year as the Jags’ offensive coordinator this season.
“It was a learning curve,” Hoffmann said of his first season as an offensive coordinator.
The Jags struggled to a 1-9 overall record as they finished in next-to-last place in the Region 4-AAAA standings.
This season, Hoffmann and his staff — quarterbacks coach Dee Sims, running backs coach Luke Shirah, receivers coach Soriano Phinazee, tight end/inside receivers coach Ty Turner and co-offensive line coaches David Richardson and Quay Hann — are looking for a lot more out of the Jags on offense.
It’s a big difference from a season ago when the pandemic canceled spring practice and augmented much of summer, limiting weightlifting and conditioning sessions, and canceling padded camps and passing league camps along the way in addition to canceling the preseason scrimmage and pushing the start of the season back two weeks later than normal.
The cumulative effect quickly took a toll on everyone, especially programs like Spalding’s, which had a first-year head coach in Kearney and first-year coordinators in Chris Henderson on defense and Hoffmann on offense.
“I tell you, it was a learning process for all of us,” Hoffmann recalled of trying to do mostly everything virtually. “You can’t replace spring practices and a spring game.”
“Obviously, us finally getting spring practice this year and a spring game paid huge dividends,” he added.
Since then, the Jags have further refined the offense by attending and participating in contact camps at McEachern last month and Fayette County this month as well as passing league camps last month at the University of Georgia and Starr’s Mill.
“I think we’ve had a great summer,” said Hoffmann. “The kids are working hard in the weight room, out there conditioning and doing field work.”
“Saw a lot of good things,” he said of the team’s last contact camp at Fayette County last week. “Got a lot of good compliments from the other coaches who were there.”
“You can tell that these kids are starting to take the identity of the head coach and that tone was set by coach Kearney,” Hoffmann continued. “It’s like we tell the kids, ‘This is the expectation and the standard, you’re going to rise to meet it or you’re going to get left behind.’ ”
“To see our kids come out the last two days (at Fayette County’s camp) and play fast and physical on both sides of the ball was a sight to see,” concluded Hoffmann on the topic. “You can see the work is paying off.”
Any way you slice it, Spalding is currently light years ahead of where it was at this time a season ago.
“Just yesterday, one of the kids (an upcoming senior) was saying, ‘I don’t know if we’ve been this prepared in the previous three seasons,” added Hoffmann.