Image courtesy of Holy Cross
By Bennett Conlin
JMU hired Bob Chesney to be its new head football coach Thursday. Chesney takes over for Curt Cignetti after going 44-21 in six seasons at Holy Cross.
If you’re a college football sicko, you might know a bit about Chesney prior to this week. If you’re not (or want even more information on JMU’s head man), this Q&A is for you.
We connected with Jennifer Toland, a sports reporter for the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, Massachusetts. She’s covered Chesney at both Holy Cross and Assumption and shared some great insight into the head coach.
How would you characterize Bob Chesney’s personality?
Jennifer: Charismatic, confident, caring, energetic, enthusiastic, positive, detail oriented, motivational.
Are there any obvious factors/reasons that Chesney and his staff were able to quickly turn Holy Cross into a consistent Patriot League champion? Do you think his coaching success will translate to the FBS and Sun Belt?
Jennifer: The program was in a tough place when Holy Cross hired Chesney in December 2017. The team had one winning season in the last five and Holy Cross fired the previous coach midway through the 2017 season. By the end of his first season, when HC finished with four straight wins, the turnaround was on.
He’s a superior motivator and players want to play for him. He elevated the program with his vast knowledge, intricate preparation and collaboration with his assistants, meticulous analysis, intense practices and by maximizing talent. As his own recruiting classes came in, the program continued to progress.
It was the same at Assumption, which really had no football tradition before his arrival. I thought he was the ideal candidate to take over the Holy Cross program, and I do believe his coaching success will translate at the next level.
What type of offensive, defensive, and special teams philosophies/schemes does Chesney employ?
Jennifer: He has always placed a premium on special teams and learning the fundamentals of blocking, angles, pursuit, etc. Many starters are on his kick and coverage units, and his teams have consistently ranked near the top of their respective leagues in returns, blocks, etc. (This season was an exception).
The last four years, the Holy Cross offense ran through Sluka, who emerged as more of a dual threat the last couple of seasons but still led the team in rushing yards. We saw a lot of 4-2-5 defense this season.
Chesney has strong ties to the northeast. Why do you think he decided to leave the region for the JMU opening?
Jennifer: I haven’t had the chance to ask him this question, but to me it seems like the natural next step in his career.
What’s been the best part of covering Bob Chesney and his teams?
Jennifer: Witnessing the turnaround of two programs (I covered his Assumption teams as well), seeing him bring out the best in his players and seeing them as a reflection of him, his enthusiasm and demand for excellence, and his transformation of a Holy Cross program that now expects greatness.