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Transition to Raiders keeps Nagel hopping

ASHLAND -- Jim Nagel says his schedule as Ashland High's athletic director and football coach was almost too much to handle in recent years.

Now, those jobs seem rather simple, compared to what lies ahead. He retains his duties at Ashland, while sliding into his new role as Southern Oregon University's football coach.

The 51-year-old Nagel admits he barely has enough time to breathe. And quality time at home with his family continues to dwindle.

Nagel is not one to stand back and let things happen naturally. With his name on the SOU program, things must be done right, good players and good people must be developed and put on the field in Raider uniforms. There will also be an expectation to win -- immediately.

I don't have an office yet, but I'm spending more and more time in the conference room in the athletic department, says Nagel. I'm getting a lot done, but it all takes time.

I get over to Southern Oregon for lunch meetings, and I'm spending as much time as I can meeting recruits, Nagel says. I'm getting used to Subway sandwiches.

Nagel remains on contract as an SOU football consultant until July, but it's clear who's in charge of the program.

Jim's involved with all aspects of the football program, from recruiting, to scholarships to scheduling, says SOU athletic director Monty Cartwright. I think the reaction to him coming on board has been good, and we're excited about him being here.

Southern Oregon continues as an NAIA program, although Cartwright says it will probably operate under dual-affiliation status (NAIA and (NCAA Division II) in at least football and basketball.

The Raiders aren't in a great hurry to tackle NCAA Division II opponents.

Right now, we aren't close to having the resources to be competitive at the Division II level, says Nagel. We are quite a few years away from that.

I'm used to not competing with a totally level playing field, but the way college athletics is changing, there could be quite a slope on that field between us and other Division II teams in a few years.

If we are going to go that way, we definitely would need a lot more resources to level the playing field, says Nagel.

At least six of Nagel's recruits are former Ashland players. Several of them haven't played football in a year or two, including former all-state receiver and defensive back David Boekenoogen.

I have to be honest with my former players, says Nagel. I remind them what it's going to take to be successful at this level. It takes commitment and hard work.

None of the key cogs from the 1997 Southern Oregon Conference championship team _ receiver Cy Aleman, receiver Brian Luman, quarterback/linebacker Erik Nagel (his son) and lineman Rudy Dietz are headed for SOU, although Nagel admits he would like to have all of them.

Aleman has committed to Oregon, Erik Nagel will go to Brown University, Willamette, Linfield, or maybe an NCAA Division II schools in California.

Those are all strong academic people that have other plans, beyond football, says Nagel. I don't think I can get them, unless they were to change their minds and come back some day.

Look for more former Ashland players to come back to SOU to play for Nagel in the next few years. The lure of playing for a good team and coach Nagel will be appealing to former Grizz players who had high objectives for college.

Nagel needs a bunch of offensive and defensive linemen to replace graduating seniors, and he says he would like to find a quarterback or two to complement returning sophomores Dan Woodward, Dan Walters and Matt Geske.

Nagel will probably serve as his own offensive coordinator. If interim coach Jeff Olson returns to the program, he will be assistant head coach.

I really hope Jeff is back, although I know he's looking at other college head coaching jobs, says Cartwright. He should do that. He really helped with a two-year transition to getting coach Nagel here. He would continue to be a very valuable coach after what he did to bring the kids confidence.

Nagel's first SOU team will feature perhaps the best tandem of running backs in the nation in seniors Casey Jackson and Griff Yates. The junior backs combined to rush for 2,174 yards and 22 touchdowns in nine games last fall.

I watched Casey run last spring, and my impression was he could probably compete with backs at any level, says Nagel. Then, Griff comes along and showed he might be even better than Casey. I think they could both play at a higher level.

With those two guys, our running game will certainly set up our passing game, says Nagel. For me, that's the opposite of what we did at Ashland most of the time. Our passing game usually set up the run there.

But I'm not complaining, says Nagel. I'm fortunate to have two backs like that.