LR football introduced Mike Jacobs on Monday; brings along 5 of his assistant coaches

(O-N-E photo by Marcus Smith)Lenoir-Rhyne’s Director of Athletics Kim Pate (left) presents new head coach Mike Jacobs (right) with the team ball as he is officially introduced at Belk Centrum on Monday, January 6. (O-N-E photo by Marcus Smith)
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

The Lenoir-Rhyne Bears’ football program officially introduced its newest head coach Mike Jacobs on Monday, January 6, at Belk Centrum.

Jacobs is the 23rd head coach for the Bears and replaces Drew Cronic who led Lenoir-Rhyne to back-to-back South Atlantic Conference crowns in his two seasons at the helm.

Kim Pate, Lenoir-Rhyne’s Director of Athletics, presented Jacobs with a team ball on stage during the press conference as he was announced as head coach on Monday afternoon.

“When we embarked on this search, we were looking for an inspiring leader. Not only to bring an exciting brand of football but (who) also understands how to develop and sustain a winning culture,” said Pate during the press conference. “...It was clear to us during our process that Mike Jacobs was the ideal candidate to lead our program forward as we look to build on recent success and continue to compete for SAC and NCAA championships.”

Jacobs’ built Notre Dame (Ohio) into a powerhouse the last few seasons as its head coach. The program had only been in existence since 2009.

Jacobs led the Falcons to an NCAA Semifinal game in 2018 and an NCAA Quarterfinal appearance in 2019.

Jacobs coached back-to-back Mountain East Conference championship squads and had his team ranked as high as fourth in the nation in 2019. Following the 2018 campaign that saw Notre Dame go 13-1 overall and 10-0 in conference, Jacobs was named the Regional and National Coach of the Year by the Don Hansen Football Gazette.

Jacobs is a stickler for the running game as he coached tailback Jaleel McLaughlin to be a Harlon Hill finalist in each of the past two seasons, including a runner-up for the award in 2019.

McLaughlin led all of Division II in rushing yards in each of the past two seasons and his 2,421 yards gained as a freshman in 2018 is a Division II record.

“Everything will start with, I believe there’s 98 or 99 counties now in the state of North Carolina. We will make sure that each and every coach at some point, this first cycle will be a little bit different because we’re on a time crunch,” said Jacobs of the recruiting process going into his first season. “The first cycle will be much more position coach driven before we actually settle into areas. The greater Charlotte area, each coach will have an area, so folks feel us, feel our presence certainly down in Cleveland County (and) certainly up in the north.”

Jacobs also talked about how his style of coaching will affect the current roster.

“From a coaching standpoint, again it’s relationship driven,” said Jacobs. “I think you work hard early to establish a trust and when you have trust they can understand that (and) they love you. That’s real. That can’t just be lip-service, and once they know you have their best interest at heart and you push them as hard as you can to be as good as they can be.

“To me, that carries over from school to school. That’s the only way I know how to function. It’s to work really hard to get to know them, work them up as people and then coach them as hard as I can in all facets of their life on and off the field. So, I think we’ll have a tremendous amount of carry-over that way.”

Speaking of coaching styles, Jacobs will bring along five assistant coaches he had with the Falcons: Jahmal Brown (DC/LB coach), Anthony Soto (OC/ OL coach), Shawn Chaffe (DL/ Recruiting Coordinator), Devin Figaro (WR) and Tony Baldesare (Special Teams/ TE coach).

Brown led the Notre Dame defense the past two seasons and produced back-to-back All-American accolades for DL Sha’haun Williams. Seven of his players were named All-Conference in 2019 and Bryce Sheppert was MEC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Soto’s run game produced a staggering 3,352 yards in 14 games (239.4 per game) and found the end zone 42 times. Chaffee coached one of the best players in the nation and helped lead Sha’haun Williams to back-to-back All-American selections.

Figaro comes to Hickory after spending a year at Valparaiso. He guided juniors Ollie Reese and Deuce Larose to 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention status. Before making his way to Porter County in 2019, Figaro had been the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, Ohio since the spring of 2017.