MADISON TWP. — Ricky Davis is already making waves as Madison High School’s new head football coach.
“I just found out that I was the youngest head coach in the state of Ohio, so that’s pretty crazy,” the 25-year-old Davis said Thursday after the school announced that he’s replacing Steve Poff at the Mohawk helm, pending school-board approval today. “It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a challenge. But I’m excited to attack it.”
Davis has an extensive football background, but very little coaching experience. He started his coaching career with Madison in 2018, joining the staff late in the regular season and helping Poff run the offense.
Poff gave up the head coaching position in December after five seasons and a 42-15 record, but he’s not going anywhere. He’s agreed to coach the offensive line under Davis.
“I wasn’t trying to vacate myself from the program. I just don’t have the time to commit to every single portion of being a head coach,” Poff said. “Ricky’s got so much young energy, and he’s got great ideas. I think he already had a lot of support from the players. I’m excited for Ricky and our boys and our community. I think it’s going to be really positive.”
Davis is a Madison Township native who attended Moeller for three years before transferring to Fenwick and leading the Falcons to the Division IV playoffs as a senior in 2012.
He was a four-year letterman at Youngstown State University, throwing for 1,532 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 803 yards and nine TDs. On Nov. 4, 2017, he collected a school-record 447 offensive yards (349 passing, 98 rushing) in a 66-24 win at Indiana State.
His best season was his junior year in 2016. He completed 55-of-106 passes for 864 yards and five touchdowns and ran 83 times for 340 yards in the first half of the season. A concussion then made him a spectator the rest of the way as the Penguins advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision title game before losing to James Madison.
Davis, who graduated from YSU last December with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in business, said he’s ready to be a head coach.
“The guys I was competing against for the job were really qualified and would’ve been amazing head coaches,” Davis said. “I just have a lot of confidence in myself. I knew what I brought to the table, and if they chose to go the route of choosing me, I was excited to get started.
“I think football knowledge is probably my biggest upside, being around the Division I college level and coaches like Jim Tressel and Bo Pelini … the list goes on and on. Being a younger guy, obviously there’s a lot to work on too. I know there’s going to be a lot of stuff to learn.”
Madison athletic director Matt Morrison said there were 22 applicants for the job. He noted that Davis is starting as a substitute teacher at the high school.
“It’s more of a seamless transition going from Coach Poff to Coach Davis. It’s seamless for our kids and our community,” Morrison said. “He’s young. I joked around with someone and said, ‘I guess we’re going to be the Los Angeles Rams of Southwest Ohio.’
“But we look at that as a complete positive. He’s very energetic and does a great job connecting with the student-athletes already. The returning guys had high praises of him and would really like to see him as the next head football coach. We took that into consideration.”
Poff said he knows some people will raise their eyebrows at Davis’ age and coaching resume.
“You can be the devil’s advocate if you want and say his coaching experience is limited, but I think his football experience and the amount of positive coaches that he’s been around at all levels taught him the game and how to be a great teammate,” Poff said. “I think his football experience far overshadows being an assistant coach for five years somewhere else.”
Poff has said repeatedly that the Mohawks will continue to play at a high level even after this year’s seniors have graduated. Madison made it to the Division V state semifinals in 2017 and the regional finals in 2018.
“We’re going to move forward and be successful,” Poff said. “I had my way of doing things and I believed in them, and Ricky’s going to have his way of doing things and we’re going to believe in those. I think it’s all going to be fine.”
Davis said he’s working to finalize his staff, but did say that Chad Thompson will be staying on and coaching the quarterbacks.
Offense has always been Davis’ forte. He’s a spread guy taking over a program that’s been known for the Wing-T under Poff, and fans should look for a combination of the two.
“We’re going to throw it a lot more than we have been,” Davis said. “I would love to do the spread air-raid stuff, but you’ve got to look at your personnel to see what puts you in the best position to be successuful. I think it’ll most likely be a gun Wing-T and being able to have some RPOs (run-pass options) out of that.”
Davis said Madison has always held a special place in his heart, even though he didn’t attend MHS.
“Madison’s always been my hometown,” Davis said. “I was born and raised here. My girlfriend is a Madison graduate. All my immediate family and extended family are Madison graduates.
“I have big shoes to fill stepping in for Steve Poff … he changed the culture in this area. But I also want to be my own coach. I don’t want to compare myself to his accolades. I want to go off the foundation that he’s built for this place and continue to make it grow with my own style. I think 2019 is going to be an exciting start.”