There’s a buzz around Wittenberg football — not just because the Tigers are 5-0 and ranked 12th in the nation.
There’s a literal buzz this season thanks to new offensive coordinator Reed Florence. A drone flies above the team during practice, giving Florence, head coach Joe Fincham and the rest of the staff a unique angle on the team at work.
“It all started at Christmas time,” said Florence on Wednesday after practice. “My oldest brother (Ryan) is a farmer. He got a drone during the summer when he can’t see fields. We were flying it around at Christmas. It was awesome seeing it. I started researching it, seeing if teams were using it. I found out there’s a bunch of teams and high schools teams using it as well.”
Florence debuted the drone, which students pilot from the sideline, at spring practices and fell in love with the view it provides from directly above the action. He would use it in games if that was allowed.
“Especially at my position, coaching the quarterbacks and helping out with the running backs,” Florence said, “you can really see lanes open up and holes for the backs open up as well.”
Technological innovation isn’t the only thing Florence has brought to the program. Four years after he threw the last of a Wittenberg-record 74 career touchdown passes, Florence is leading an offense that’s tied for 28th in NCAA Division III in scoring offense (37.8 points per game).
“He’s done a fine job,” Fincham said. “I think he knows our offense as well as anybody. We’ve made adjustments since he played here, and he’s brought his own spins to it, too. He relates really well to the players. It’s always helpful as a coach when you can put yourself in their shoes. He’s done all this stuff. He gets the academic grind that the Wittenberg players and students go through. He gets what it’s like socially on our campus. Obviously, he gets the football side of it, too.”
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Florence joined the Wittenberg staff in 2016 as the safeties coach. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., for a season.
Florence began his coaching career in 2014 as the quarterbacks coach at Marian University in Indianapolis on a staff that included head coach Mark Henninger, a 1996 Wittenberg graduate, offensive coordinator Andy Mitchel, who was Wittenberg’s offensive coordinator when Florence was a player, and B.J. Coad, a former Wittenberg offensive lineman.
Florence caught the coaching bug when he was at Southeastern High School. He led the Trojans to a 9-3 mark as a senior in 2009.
“Once I was in high school and started playing and fell in love with football, I knew I wanted to coach,” Florence said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be a high school coach or a college coach. Once I got to college and played for coach Fincham and coach Mitchel, I knew I wanted to coach college football.”
Getting to do that in his hometown is a bonus.
“It’s a great place, a great university,” Florence said. “We’ve got great support around town. It’s really nice.”