Profile: OU TE coach Brian Haines

There is still long ways to go in the coaching career of Brian Haines, but for now, things seem to have come full circle.

The former Ohio graduate assistant was named the new tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bobcats in February, replacing University of Toledo-bound Scott Isphording.

This is Haines’ first full-time coaching position, and it came sooner than many would expect. After all, there aren’t too many Division I football coaches under the age of 30.

But Haines, 27, does not like waste time dwelling on the fact.

“To be honest with you – the age – I’ve not thought of it that way,” Haines said. “I’ve thought of it as, ‘I’m ready for my position.’”

His resume certainly speaks for itself.

Haines is a 2004 graduate of Marietta College, where he had a storied career at wide receiver. The Williamstown, W. Va. native is fourth in receptions and fifth in receiving yards all-time for the Pioneers.

After graduating, Haines swapped his pads and helmet for a whistle and visor. He began working on his master’s degree and served as a GA for the Pioneers until 2007.

Then he decided to make the move.

“For me, playing there for four years and working there for three, that was all I knew at the time and it was just time to move on,” he said.

Haines applied for the same position at OU and took over as the offensive GA. The move came naturally for Haines, whose wife, Mary, is from Athens.

He worked closely with offensive coordinator Tim Albin, as well as wide receiver coach Dwayne Dixon, during his first stint with the Bobcats.

“I made a real good connection, you know, with the entire staff,” Haines said. “Especially here, if you work hard, that’s all they ask for. That’s what Coach [Frank] Solich expects and that’s what Coach Solich gets.”

Haines made quite a reputation for himself during his first tenure with OU, and not only for his coaching prowess.

“He did an outstanding job as a graduate assistant in that capacity. He was like a full-time coach for us,” Albin said. “He chipped in in a lot of ways, not only during the season, but in the offseason with recruiting.”

After two seasons with the Bobcats, Haines felt he was ready to take the next step, but the transition did not come easily. He pursued a full-time job “anywhere,” but could not get his foot through the proverbial coaching door.

So, through the wonders of networking, Haines was offered a GA position at West Virginia University, the team he grew up rooting for in Williamstown.

“It (West Virginia Football) is the only thing that the state has. There’s no other professional sport,” Haines said. “It’s the show everybody wants to see.”

He once again coached with the offense, this time focusing on the running back position as well as working with slot receivers. The entire time he worked closely with offensive coordinator/spread offense virtuoso Jeff Mullen.

“There’s a lot of people that would like to be involved and know what he’s (Mullen’s) doing and what he’s thinking,” he said. “While I was there, I was kind of like his ‘right-hand’ man.”

The Mountaineers went 9-3 during the regular season, good for third in the Big East, but were downed by Florida State in the Gator Bowl New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats finished the 2009 with a 9-4 record, their best since 2006. The Mid-American Conference East champions punched tickets to Detroit for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, but fell to Marshall 21-17.

After the 2009 season, Haines once again decided to chase his dream of a full-time coaching position, and his pursuit led him back to a familiar setting. When he heard about the OU coaching vacancy left by the departure of Isphording, he applied immediately.

“I think going away for a year and then coming back definitely made me a better product,” he said. “I think that Coach Solich saw that and I saw it as well. When you get around different programs – different people – you see different things done the other way and it really opens your eyes.”

Haines’ approach to the position has already started to open eyes of many on the OU coaching staff, including Albin.

“The time at West Virginia was nothing but beneficial,” Albin said. “He’s able to bring some ideas – some different thoughts – to the table as far as their scheme and some of the things they did with their offense.”

Max Manin, a former student assistant coach who worked closely with Haines as a GA and again this spring, echoed Albin sentiments.

“It’s like night and day. He’s 100 percent business now,” Manin said. “I think that [his time at West Virginia] had a lot to do with him maturing.”

His players have noticed a contrast between Haines and Isphording as well. Redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Thompson noted the obvious.

“He’s younger,” Thompson said.

While Haines avoids focusing on his age, players and the coaching staff recognize some of the benefits.

“That’s a plus I think” Albin said. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our practices and I think that rubs off onto the other coaches as well as the team.”

“There’s just something different about a younger guy talking to you,” Manin said. “More importantly than them being able to relate to him, he can relate to them. He can kind of realize, you know, if a kid’s having a tough day.”

But his age is not the only thing that stands out about Haines and his approach to the tight end position.

“Coach ‘Hainesy’ is really big on not only knowing what we’re doing, but knowing the 10 other positions on the field,” Thompson said. “He always talks about the big picture.”

Haines is certainly a man who appreciates the importance of the “big picture.” It’s that appreciation that helps him carry out his other role with the team as recruiting coordinator.

“One guy can help your program and one guy can hurt your program. You’ve got to do your research,” Haines said. “Right now is when every team across the country is winning or losing games, you know, we’re talking two, three years, four years down the road.”

Haines takes a very meticulous approach to recruiting, a fact that is not lost on the rest of the coaching staff.

“In the recruiting aspect of it, he’s very detailed and highly organized,” Albin said. “The recruiting coordinator part is vital to your program. Good players make good coaches.”

In the end, that is what Haines wants to be – a good coach.

“I think every coach wants to be a head coach one day, but as for me, time will tell,” Haines said. “My next move would be years and years down the road, after just being a sponge around Coach Mullen and Coach Albin.”

And while Haines ultimately has the “big picture” in mind, his focus is completely on the here and now.

With 12 returning starters and four returning All-Americans, the Bobcats will enter next season as a favorite to compete for the MAC crown.

“We’re close. We showed it last year. We’ve just got to take that next step,” Thompson said. “I definitely think the table’s set.”

OU has a glut of weapons on the offensive side of the ball with the likes of LaVon Brazill and Terrence McCrae at wideout, but Albin said he also plans to get the tight ends more involved, especially Thompson.

“The tight end catches, I think, will increase as time goes along,” Albin said. “I’d be shocked if his (Thompson’s) catches don’t at least double this fall.”

Haines is certainly optimistic about his group of players at the tight end position.

“They’re smart, they’re bright, but they don’t act like they know everything,” Haines said. “They’re willing to take coaching, which helps me out.”

Currently, Haines is making recruiting visits in the Pittsburgh area. He has been on the road for the last three weeks. While he admits the “grind” that is the college football offseason has been challenge, it’s one that he welcomes with open arms.

“I want to do everything I can to help Ohio University and its athletics program win football games,” he said. “I’m just trying to take an innovative approach.”

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