ESPN Boston caught up with newly-anointed Fitchburg High head football coach Dan Walker tonight, to discuss his thoughts on the Red Raiders' program going forward. Walker, 29, was officially named yesterday afternoon as the successor to outgoing coach Ray Cosenza, who steps down after 23 years, 165 wins, 10 Super Bowl appearances and producing numerous scholarship players at both the Division 1 FBS and FCS levels.
Walker was a two-sport star at Worcester State before joining Cosenza's staff in 2006. He has been the Raiders' defensive coordinator the last five seasons.
On his reaction to being named head coach: "It's very exciting. Obviously, Fitchburg has a great tradition, Ray has built a great program, and it's an honor to take over from him. It's such a great program with great tradition and pride."
What it means to replace a coach like Cosenza: "He's been great. Working under him for six years, he allowed me to coach a lot and grow as a coach. I thank him for all he's done for me. He's been a great mentor along with several other coaches. I was fortunate enough to play for and coach with Tom DiGeronimo. At Worcester State, I had the pleasure of playing for two great coaches there in Brien Cullen and Dirk Baker, in football and baseball respectively."
What he's learned from Ray that he'll apply: "Ray always had lot of pride in Fitchburg. He's a real hard worker, he really showed me what it takes to get the job done year-round...It takes staying on top of the kids -- academics, behavior, offseason training, and other stuff like clinics, camps, fundraising, everything has built the program to the point it's at."
How he'd describe his own coaching style: "I love teaching. The kids know what to expect, I'm pretty straightforward with them. I expect them to be committed, disciplined, show good work ethic, and really build their character, to have success."
His defensive philosophy: "Defensively, we’ve really tried to focus on fundamentals over the last five years. It's been mostly a four-man front, from 4-3 or a 4-4, and we really want to get good at fundamentals and execute. We've played physical, and we've been pretty good defensively over the last five years. We've made our mistakes, but we've learned lot over the last five years about what works and what doesn’t.
"Defensively, I think we're gonna keep preaching fundamentals and get after it. I think that fits the type of kids we have best. We'll run five-man fronts when we have to, we'll go based on what the team is best at, as long as we're teaching fundamentals."
How he plans to approach the offense going forward: "I think we have to do what best fits our personnel. We have a good quarterback coming back and some receivers, and a handful of running backs. We need to build an offensive line. We have some good, young kids that bring some good size. I think we can keep the same system, but maybe integrate some of the 'I' stuff to it, to be able to be multiple, depending on the other team what we think we're able to do."
On the players coming up: "I think we have good skill kids coming back. In the last month or so, the younger kids have shown great work ethic in the weight room. The upcoming kids have some good size I think coming in, but more importantly good kids with good character and work ethic. They work hard, and they've already shown that in the weight room.
"Our quarterback last year, Connor Lemieux, hes gonna be coming back. A couple running backs, Dmitri Brasilli, Anthony DiPrima. We lose mostly linebackers, some of our tailbacks are only going to be juniors next year. We've got a couple kids up front, couple receivers there that show some good skill. We're fortunate at Fitchburg that we usually have some pretty good skill. We'll see how we can do going forward."