Brian Sheppard, who’s spent the past two seasons on PJ Fleck’s highly regarded University of Minnesota staff and who’s been responsible for some of the most dramatic offensive turnarounds at the Football Championship Subdivision level across the past decade, has a new role.
Sheppard will be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Stetson University, the Florida-based program that competes in the Pioneer Football League.
The move seems like a natural pairing for Sheppard and second-year Hatters head coach Bryan Young, an energetic, defensive-minded coach who had a deep history at the school and returned to take over the program in June 2021.
“I didn’t know the head coach, really, but I knew people who knew him,” Sheppard told FootballScoop. “I’d talked with Coach Fleck midway through the year, and I said I’d love to be here if you have a coaching role, but if not, and he was on the same page, had said we thought we might only get you here at Minnesota for a year.
“I’ve been enough places to know that it’s not where you’re at, it’s who you’re with. It’s why VMI stuck out with Coach Wach (Scott Wachenheim), Minnesota, and the places I’ve been able to go in and have opportunities, there have been great people. And that’s the biggest thing about Stetson, the head coach was awesome, knowledge, passionate and a defense-oriented guy who likes an attacking style, attacking the opposing defense, pushing the ball downfield and running effectively.”
Those all are elements of Sheppard’s “Pro-Raid” offense, which features its own concoction of air-raid and pro-style concepts honed particularly in stops at Virginia Military Institute, Indiana State and Northern Arizona. VMI had one of the nation’s most dramatic offensive turnarounds in Sheppard’s first season, 2018, when it bolstered its per-game scoring average by more than 15 points per contest.
At Indiana State and Northern Arizona, Sheppard’s offensive units helped ignite explosive turnarounds that resulted in FCS Playoff berths; the ISU postseason appearance snapped a 31-year drought for that program.
“It’s great when you get a chance to be lucky like I am here at Stetson and have been at other places, to have a head coach that empowers you,” Sheppard said. “That’s what appealed to me here. We’ve got some really good pieces in place, the fit is right. And our O-line coach (Jake Reed), he played three years at Indiana as center and had a cup of coffee in the NFL, had been with Seth Littrell, those concepts, and we call it the ‘Pro-Raid’ because it has a lot of pro influences. My dad (Mike) was a West Coast offense guy in the NFL for a long time.”
The Hatters, 4-7 last fall after a winless, COVID-19 spring season ushered Young back to the program, open their 2022 campaign Sept. 3 at home versus Concordia, have a prime non-conference showdown against high-powered Princeton two weeks later and start Pioneer Football League play Sept. 24 against Morehead State, the last of their four-game homestand to open the season.