The Bowdoin Orient

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January 23

JB Wells of Endicott College named head coach of Bowdoin football team

Bowdoin announced JB Wells as its 29th head football coach Wednesday morning. Wells joins the Polar Bears by way of Endicott College, where he was the first coach in program history and accrued a 75-48 record over his 12 seasons with the Gulls.

The announcement came directly after a 7 a.m. meeting in Kresge Auditorium where Wells introduced himself to the entire team.

Wells knows the NESCAC well, as he graduated from Trinity College in 1991 and started for three years as an offensive lineman for the Bantams. He also held assistant coaching positions at both Trinity and Bates during the ’90’s.

“This was really less of a football decision and more of a career decision,” said Wells. “I played in the conference, and the NESCAC means a lot to me. I’ve always seen myself as returning to the NESCAC in one of the positions, I just didn’t know where it was gonna be.”

For Wells, the decision to leave the Endicott program, which he built from the ground up, was not an easy one.

“I can’t thank Endicott enough for the opportunity I was given as a 31 year-old, unproven head coach,” he said. “They handed me a blank canvas and all the art supplies I needed to paint a picture and put my vision on that canvas. To see it come to life and see it succeed in the way that it did was remarkable. It was hard to leave.”

After Dave Caputi stepped down this fall after 15 years as head coach, Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan sat down with the team and established a set of desired characteristics for its next coach. He then narrowed the applicants down to those which he presented to the selection committee. 

The selection committee was headed up by Ryan. Also on the committee were team captains Parker Mundt ’16, Brendan Lawler ’16 and Dan Barone ’16, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Jim Caton, Assistant Dean of Admissions Zakaree Harris, Assistant Director of Employment and Staffing Meredith Haralson, Associate Head Athletic Trainer Megan Thompson, Head Coach of Field Hockey Nicky Pearson, Head Coach of Baseball Mike Connelly and Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History Brian Purnell, who is the faculty liaison to the football team.

“Before we could even look at it, Tim Ryan sifted through upwards of 100 applicants,” said Mundt. “It came down to the final 12 or 15 guys who he thought were appropriate.”

Mundt said it was not difficult to decide on the top four candidates. 

“In their cover letters, it was really quite obvious,” he continued. “Even just the language some of the guys were using, it was pretty clear that they were not fitting our standards. It was a really quick process.”

After narrowing it down to four, the committee closely evaluated the remaining candidates. Lawler, Barone and Mundt conducted phone interviews.

“A couple of the other phone interviews I had were 20 minutes long, very meat and potatoes, question and answer,” said Mundt. "And that’s not what I was looking for at all."

“My interview with [Coach Wells] was different, and I knew it was different,” said Mundt. “We had a conversation for an hour and a half, which was exactly what I wanted. I got a really good feel for what he’s about, and he got a feel for what we’re about here.”

But while Wells is still yet to move any of his possessions from his Beverley office to his Brunswick one, he has already turned his thoughts toward his new roster. He plans to leave Bowdoin’s base 4-2-5 defense relatively intact, including coverages and blitz schemes similar to those he employed while with the Gulls.

The offense, though, will have a new look next year. Tyler Grant ‘17 is the attack’s best returning weapon, having led the NESCAC with 893 rushing yards last season.  He also had over 75 more carries than any other back in the league despite standing only 5’10” and weighing  just 158 pounds.

“I’ve always been in favor of having a two-headed monster, two guys that can shoulder the load,” Wells said. “It makes them both better. So the scheme on running the football will be different. They ran a zone scheme and I’m more of a gap scheme kind of a guy. I love the traditional power play. I’m an offensive line guy, and it kind of speaks to my soul as a football player.”

“I’ve also had a lot of success in my career throwing the football. I look at guys like Seamus Power [‘16] and Danny Barone that stood out to me on film. I’d like to see us be a little more vertical in our passing game. We have to throw for more than one passing touchdown in the season.”

Wells takes over a Polar Bear squad that finished 2-6 last year and has an all-time record of 392-502-44. And while he plans to bring cultural changes to the program, a full overhaul is not to be expected.

“I heard one of the players allude to us making a turnaround,” he said. “Well, a turnaround says that you’re going in the wrong direction. I don’t think that Bowdoin’s going in the wrong direction, I think that we just need to get a little more in line, a little bit more focused and get everybody—everybody—headed in the right direction.”

According to Wells, heading in the right direction means an intense focus on oneself.

 “One of my idiosyncrasies is that I will never mention an opponent by name,” he said. “They’re just ‘that team over there in Lewiston,’ or whatever. I don’t talk about those guys, because the focus should always be on us. Your opponents are just a sounding board for how good you can be.”

As the football team moves into this new era, all involved are focused on the future.

“There’s no magic wand you can wave as a college football coach coming into a program that’s historically been a 3-5, 2-6 team,” said Mundt. “We’re expecting to win this year, but it’s something where you’ll want to come back and see success later. I know they’re going to be winning five, six, seven or eight games a year. If you can set your guys up for success and in five years come and watch them win games, that’s awesome.”

“At the end of the day, it was ‘Can you be successful?’” said Wells. “And I wouldn’t be sitting in this seat if I didn’t think that we could. I left the program that I built from scratch and I was only going to do that if I could be at a special place.”

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