UWA announces Gilliland as new head coach

IMG_0446LIVINGSTON — The University of West Alabama has its man. UWA officially announced alumnus Brett Gilliland as its new head football coach Monday.

“Brett is a Hall of Fame student-athlete from UWA and he has chosen coaching football as his career. He has been in some great programs at Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern, gotten some great experience from some great coaches and he wanted to be back and made it a pretty easy decision for us to get our own guy back to campus,” UWA Athletic Director Stan Williamson said of the hire. “It was a good position for him. It was a good position for us and for him to continue our success here at UWA.”

Gilliland spent the 2013 season as the quarterbacks coach at Kennesaw State, an upstart program that is set to take the field for the first time in 2015.

The hire puts Gilliland back where he starred as quarterback for the Tigers before concluding his playing career in 2003.

“When I left in 2004, I told my wife, ‘I’m going to come back and be the head coach there.’ I thought I told her (it would be) in my early 30s. She said I told her it would be when I was 32. I guess it was prophetic,” Gilliland told the crowd assembled at his introductory press conference Monday afternoon. “I’m so excited to come home to a program that has come so far in the last several years. It is truly an honor to say I stand where Mickey Andrews once stood and where Bobby Wallace once stood and all the coaches that have stood before you as the head coach of this program.”

rp_primary_Gilliland,jpgGilliland began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech where he worked under the likes of Chan Gailey and Paul Johnson.

While at Georgia Tech, Gilliland was a part of three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Coastal Division Championships (2006, 2008 and 2009) and was a member of the 2009 ACC Championship team (vacated) and Orange Bowl Participant.

In 2007, Gilliland worked with offensive coordinator John Bond and the Yellow Jacket quarterbacks after assisting with the receiving corps in 2006, including Biletnikoff Award winner Calvin Johnson. Gilliland coached the B-backs for two seasons at Tech, a group which included Doak Walker semi-finalist Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer was the ACC rushing leader and Player of the Year in 2008.

During his three seasons at Georgia Southern, Gilliland worked with the B-backs (2010), tight ends and tackles (2011) and wide receivers (2012). He also took over the recruiting coordinator duties following the conclusion of the 2011 season. The Eagles posted a 31-12 (.721) overall record, captured two Southern Conference titles (2011, 2012) and made three consecutive NCAA Football Championship Series (FCS) semifinal appearances during Gilliland’s time in Statesboro, Ga. The kickoff return unit also led the Southern Conference and was ranked in the top 15 nationally during each of Gilliland’s three seasons with the Eagles.

Brett Gilliland (right) and UWA Athletic Director Stan Williamson.

Brett Gilliland (right) and UWA Athletic Director Stan Williamson.

Gilliland assumes his first head coaching position atop a program that has won at least a share of the last two Gulf South Conference titles under former coach Will Hall, who departed to take the West Georgia head job in November.

As Gilliland moves from Monday’s dream moment, he is faced with the reality of an impending junior college signing day and the urgent need to identify which members of the current UWA staff he will retain and what holes will need to be filled.

“I’m about to start working on that really. We’ve done a little groundwork on it, but the rest of tonight and tomorrow we’ll make headway with a lot of that. I know there are some great coaches here that have had their hand in recruiting already and have a good pulse on the team. I’m very eager to talk to them. There’s also a lot of interest from other coaches to come here,” Gilliland said of the process of assembling his staff. “I’ve already been in the Mississippi JuCos for a bit, so I have an idea already of some guys, so that will help. Obviously, you’ve got to get them over here and let them see the place. That signing day is a starting point. It’s not necessarily an ending point. There’s a narrow window, but we’re not too far behind.”

By his own admission, Gilliland’s greatest strength may come in the recruiting department as he noted evaluation and recruitment as his greatest personal strengths.

“Recruiting is an area of strength of mine. I’ve been recruiting coordinator at Georgia Southern, which is a program very similar to here. It’s, obviously, a level above on the playing field. But as far as being in a small town, there’s a lot of things that are comparable to it. We were able to have great success recruiting there. Those players that we recruited just beat Florida,” Gilliland said. “Recruiting, but the evaluation process of recruiting would probably be a huge strong point of mine. Getting the guys that are going to develop into players when other people think they aren’t, the Kyle Caldwells of the world.”

AOEUQPKGGGWXHYZ.20100118013052Gilliland will inherit a roster that includes incumbent starting quarterback Kyle Caldwell, a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, NCAA Division II’s highest individual football honor. Retaining Caldwell is a major positive for a coach looking to employ a system in which the former Dadeville High signal-caller has made great strides toward breaking a few Gilliland’s own passing marks.

“To the outsider looking in, it won’t look a whole lot different. We’re still going to be pretty wide open,” Gilliland said of his offensive style. “We’re still going to attack defense very similar ways as they have in the past. I’m very familiar with what they’ve been doing. That’s along the same lines as my philosophy too. We’re going to be able to run the ball. We’re going to run the ball effectively and then throw it and take advantage of the passing game when we need to.”

A four-year letter winner at quarterback for West Alabama from 2000-03, Gilliland was a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill trophy in 2003. He earned All-Gulf South second team honors (2002) as well as all-region recognition from the Football Gazette (2002). Gilliland concluded his career as the Tigers’ single-season (3,213) and career passing yards (6,689) record holder. He completed his West Alabama career with a record 6,847 total offensive yards while playing in 42 games and starting 27. In 2012, he was inducted into the UWA Athletic Hall of Fame.

A two-time member of the All-Gulf South Conference Academic list, he won the Asa Green Scholar-Athlete Award, an award presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade-point average on the football team, winning it in 2001 and 2003. Gilliland, the offensive team captain, was selected by his teammates as the recipient of the Phil Puccio Leadership and Dedication Award in 2001 and 2003.

In addition to the awards presented to him for his athletics achievements, Gilliland earned numerous accolades for his academic work. A 2003 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District IV selection, he also was honored twice with the Gulf South Conference “Top Eight” award.

Gilliland and his wife, Amanda, were married in Gulf Shores in 2005. The couple has a son, Rece Elijah.