Although more equipped for it than most, Kurt Nichols will never be the kind of parent who tries to give advice to his son’s football coach. He simply doesn’t need the aggravation.

Nichols — whose son, Ross, is a sophomore-to-be at Ada High School and the youngest (and least experienced) of three quarterbacks the Cougars had in camp this spring — sees more and worries less than the average parent when he watches Ross and the rest of the Ada squad practice. After more than two decades as a football coach, Kurt Nichols has seen it all before.

“This is a lot more fun than watching my team,” said Nichols, who recently completed his first spring as ECU’s head football coach. “This is stress-free.”

Part of a good crowd who watched the Cougars go through a 70-minute practice session under game conditions Saturday to close out Ada’s annual Camp Paradise, Nichols saw Ross play only a few series and complete just one pass, while returning starter Michael Roberts and senior Darren Briley took most of the snaps.

But while Ross — whose arm is easily the strongest of the three Cougar quarterback candidates — might have been a little bit disappointed in his lack of playing time Saturday, Kurt Nichols took it all in stride.

“(Ross) has always been in a run-oriented offense, so seeing a four-wide set is an adjustment,” Nichols said. “His foot speed is improving, and the more experience he gets, the more confidence he will have in himself. I just want to see him have fun.

“My goals for Ross are the same as the ones he sets for himself,” Nichols added. “He wants to contribute and help this team win.”

When the Nichols moved to town, the Cougars had just completed their second season under Dean and, although they had claimed a second straight District 4A-2 title, they were eliminated, 27-0, by Wagoner, in the second round the playoffs. Faced with a second straight year of staggering graduation losses, Dean opted to overhaul his offense and go to a more pass-oriented attack for 2006 — an attack that, at some point, should be perfect for Ross Nichols’ strong right arm.

“I know Steve is going toward more of a passing offense, but I think he still wants to keep his run identity,” Kurt Nichols said. “Making the change from a run-dominated offense to 50-50 pass and run is huge, because it will give (Dean) a lot more options.”

After coaching six years at Cisco Junior College in Texas, Nichols brought his own wide open spread attack to ECU, but he said that, even though his teams have emphasized passing, he didn’t encourage Ross to become a quarterback.

“Ross has done it on his own,” Nichols said. “He comes from a long line of athletes, but there haven’t been any quarterbacks.

“I don’t critique him unless he asks me for help,” he added. “My dad was a coach and he always encouraged me, and I’ve tried to do the same with Ross.”

And, as a coach who stresses fundamentals himself, Kurt Nichols said he has been encouraged by what he has seen in Dean and his program so far.

“When I took the (ECU) job, I knew about the legacy of Ada football,” he said. “My concern was that they be fundamentally sound, and they are. This team has a good fundamental approach, and that’s a tribute to Steve.

“They work on basics, and the practices are well-structured,” Nichols added. “A lot of college coaches could learn from the way Steve structures his practices.”

At this point in his career, Ross Nichols is a raw talent with a huge upside. A six-footer with a rifle arm, he will be an outsider in the Cougar quarterback race this fall. But if Dean continues to rely on the pass, Nichols could eventually challenge Roberts (a junior this fall) for the starting job.

“Ross just has to become more comfortable in the offense,” Dean said. “We’re going to be patient with him, because this week and spring ball was the first time for him to see a lot of this stuff.

“We’re confident he’s just going to keep getting better,” Dean added. “He works hard, and that gives him the opportunity to help us down the road.”

And Kurt Nichols said if breeding means anything, his son has a chance to become the kind of player who could eventually compete not only for a starting job at Ada High but also at the next level.

“If Ross plays college football, he will be a fourth-generation college athlete,” Nichols said. “He’s got the bloodlines.”

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Kurt Nichols said ECU’s preseason camp will open Aug. 9 in preparation for one of the most anticipated season openers in school history — a Sept. 2 showdown with national NCAA Division II power Pittsburg State at Norris Field.

Nichols said “25 or 30” ECU players have been taking part in voluntary off-season conditioning, including former Ada offensive lineman Justin Nail, who could make the roster as a freshman this fall.

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Ada’s Michael Roberts and Coalgate’s Teran Mixon both finished fourth in their respective events at part of Team Oklahoma at the Great Southwest Track and Field Classic in Albuquerque, N. M., earlier this month.

Roberts was the only sophomore on the 1,600-meter relay team that also included Zac Dawson of Edmond Santa Fe, Calvin Sterling of Tishomingo and Matthew Smith from Millwood. The quartet ran a time of 3:14.88, with Roberts — a member of the Ada relay that was third at the 5A state meet last month — running a solid split of :48.2.

Mixon, part of the Coalgate girls track squad that ran away with the 3A state title in 2005 and the 2A crown this spring, was fourth in the 800 meters in a time of 2:16.56 and admitted the altitude in Albuquerque might have had an effect on her.

“It’s a lot different running out there, so I was okay with my time,” Mixon said. “But you always want to get first.”

Mixon will run next at a regional meet in Missouri in two weeks before competing at a national event in Virgnia in July.

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