SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah State opened its spring football season on a sunny Monday morning in T.A. Wright Stadium. Interim coach Russell DeMasi stood in front of his team as the man in charge for the first time, excitedly bellowing directions to the players.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to talk for a few days after this, but that’s part of it,” DeMasi said. “We’re just getting back into the swing of things. I just wanted to make sure these guys hear my voice and understood what we wanted out of the practice.”
Just 24 hours after that practice, DeMasi will probably learn whether or not he still has a job.
Sources close to the team have told WSAV that an announcement on the next head coach at Savannah State is imminent and will likely occur on Tuesday.
DeMasi has been the interim head coach since former head coach Shawn Quinn left the Tigers to join Brent Pry’s staff at Virginia Tech University. The full-time role has been vacant since early December.
Savannah State revealed its final four candidates last week. That group includes Bethune-Cookman offensive coordinator Allen Suber, former Georgia Southern wide receivers coach Lamar Owens and Howard recruiting coordinator/DBs coach Aaron Kelton.
As of the start of spring practice, DeMasi and offensive assistant Nick Trist have been the only full-time staff members. DeMasi handled recruiting duties for the Class of 2022 and the organization of spring practice while not knowing whether or not he will be retained next season.
“Every day has been an audition,” DeMasi said. “I’ve proven that I’ve wanted to be here. I’ve let them know; I’ve stressed that to the administration. This is the place I want to be. This is my home. I love these guys. I’ve got a recruiting class of 36 guys coming in and I want to be their head coach.”
All coaches on Savannah State’s staff besides DeMasi and Trist are there on a part-time basis. Jenkins High School graduate Javonte Middleton came in to work with the defensive backs. Local coach Randy Moss was also on staff. In addition to the coaches, two players helped run the individual position drills: wide receiver Chaii Bland and junior linebacker Mackenzy Newbill.
Quarterback J.T. Hartage echoed his teammates’ prior sentiments when he said he hoped DeMasi got the head coaching job.
“He’s full of energy every day and I can tell he really, really wants the job,” Hartage said. “We’re rooting for him and we’re hoping that it goes in his favor.”
Monday’s session was be the first of 15 spring practices allowable by the NCAA, culminating in the spring exhibition game, which is set for 5 p.m. on Friday, April 22 at Memorial Stadium. Admission into both that game and practices at T.A. Wright Stadium are free for fans.
Practices will last two hours apiece. DeMasi says that Savannah State is operating with just 70 players at the moment, which necessitates shortened sessions.
Prior to this spring practice period, the team did eight to 10 weeks of lifting and conditioning. The players were excited to get out on the field after so much time in the gym.
“Everybody was just ready to put a helmet on and fly around and get in between the lines and get some form of football done,” said sophomore Ameen Stevens.