Fenwick feels prepared to take over Miner football program.
With a football coach as a father, Tyler Fenwick literally grew up in the game.
Now he is the head of his own football family.
Missouri S&T officially introduced Fenwick as the 19th football head coach in school history at a press conference Thursday in the Hall of Fame Room at the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building.
It is the first collegiate head coaching position for Fenwick, who was the offensive coordinator at Missouri Western the previous six seasons.
He replaces David Brown, who was S&T Miner head coach for three seasons before resigning to accept an assistant coaching position at Fresno State.
"I feel like I've worked for a lot of good head coaches who have prepared me to be in this role," Fenwick said. "From all different angles; different experiences."
A California native, Fenwick spent five years – including the final four as offensive coordinator – as an assistant at Occidental College in California. However, he became quite familiar with Midwest NCAA Division II football in his six years at Missouri Western. The Western Griffons advanced to the postseason in all six of his seasons there, including a quarterfinal berth this past fall.
S&T was formally a Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) rival of Missouri Western before the Miners joined the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC). The GLVC sanctioned football as a conference sport for the first time in 2012, and the Miners finished second in the league race.
"I've always followed Division II football the last seven or eight years," Fenwick said. "I looked into what S&T is about. When I was at Occidental we recruited a lot of the same kids S&T did."
S&T took advantage of an incredibly soft schedule in 2012 and posted a 10-1 record.
Several of the Miners' 2012 league opponents were still transitioning from NAIA to Division II and as a result S&T played just two opponents with winning records entering the final week of the regular season. The weak schedule proved to work against the Miners in the postseason, as the squad failed to make the Division II national playoffs despite the gaudy won-loss mark.
If the Miners finish 10-1 again in 2013 a playoff berth is all but a done deal, as the schedule has been upgraded.
S&T opens 2013 with four consecutive non-conference games, the first two against opponents who advanced to the Division II playoffs in 2012. The Miners have a Thursday night season-opener at home against Chadron State College on Sept. 5 followed by a road matchup against an opponent Fenwick knows well – Missouri Western – on Sept. 14.
Before getting into GLVC play the Miners will also take on Wisconsin-LaCrosse and the MIAA's Lindenwood University.
Chadron State (Neb.) finished 9-3 last season. Missouri Western won the murderous MIAA title outright and was 12-2 last season. Lindenwood finished 8-4 overall and was fifth in the MIAA standings in 2012. Wisconsin-LaCrosse, a NCAA Division III program, finished 4-6 last season and split with S&T in a series covering 2009-10.
Starting this year S&T will also renew a conference rivalry with Truman State, as the Kirksville, Mo. school switches from the MIAA to the GLVC. The Miners have lost their last 21 meetings with the Truman State Bulldogs, with the last game between the two schools coming in 2004.
So, it's safe to say the schedule has been drastically beefed up.
"When you look at the league, I feel we have a chance to compete," Fenwick said of the GLVC. "This is a competitive league. Indianapolis (the lone loss on S&T's 2012 schedule); they're good. I think the teams are comparable. I think our schedule this year will be very competitive.
"If we get through that schedule I think we'll be in the playoffs."
Scheme-wise Fenwick says the Miners will not change much on either side of the ball. He will personally call the offensive plays.
"I'll stay on the offensive side," Fenwick said. "I'll call the plays. We'll spread people out but we'll be multiple; we want to balance things out. A lot of (what we run) will depend on the personnel. The system I've run over the years has been able to adjust to what we've had year to year.
"Defensively we'll look a lot like (last season)."
S&T loses a large number of seniors from last season's offense at the skill positions, including quarterback Josh Firm (2,451 passing yards, 27 TDs), receivers Smook Thomas (92 receptions for 861 yards) and Joseph Hyman (41 receptions for 632 yards and 15 TDs) and running back Curterris Golden (875 rushing yards, 14 TDs).
The defense has more returning anchors to build around, including linemen Eddie Rascon (43 tackles, 10.5 sacks), Freddy Dugard (43 tackles, 9.5 sacks) and Jimmy Burnhart (5.0 sacks) and linebackers Chris Emesih (team-leading 65 tackles) and Chris Horn (44 tackles, three INT)
S&T averaged 41.6 points per game and allowed 18.6 last season.
Another S&T assistant coach will be hired to replace previous offensive coordinator Nate Saum, who resigned over the winter. Now that he's in place, Fenwick will have input on that hiring.
Due to the timing of Fenwick's hiring the start of the Miners' spring football drills is still uncertain.
"We're working on that now," he said of the spring schedule. "We will probably start around April 7-9."
He added that the annual Miner Spring Football Game is set for May 4.
Fenwick says he will use spring practice to see if additional recruits need to be added before next fall.
"I've watched some film and I've watched our kids work out one morning," Fenwick said. "We can kind of take our time right now. I'm going to know after the first three practices (in the spring) what we may need to bring in."
And when Fenwick does recruit, he says he will primarily be looking at high school kids.
"I'm not a big junior college guy," he said. "I like to bring in high school kids; young kids who learn your system and your philosophy.
"The first thing we want to do recruiting is work inside-out; try to get some kids locally. I plan to focus recruiting locally to start with. I've recruited all over – California, St. Louis, Nebraska. At Occidental we recruited nationally; a lot of similarities (to S&T)."
Fenwick says once he gets settled in and moves his family to town he plans to begin forming relationships with fans, organizations and businesses within the community.
"It's important to get out and meet as many in the community as I can for the kids' sake," he said. "We have to advertise for this program."