New Troy coaches bring energy and experience

Published 1:02 pm Thursday, March 9, 2023

New Troy defensive coordinator Greg Gasparato and offensive line coach Joe Bernardi got their first taste of their Trojan players during spring practices this week.

Gasparato and Bernardi were officially hired by Troy University just before the start of spring practices and have hit the ground running.

“I love both of them and the style (of coaching) and energy they bring,” Troy Head Coach Jon Sumrall said. “Greg comes from the same system and same structure of what we’ve been doing. He comes from the same family, the same (coaching) tree, if you will, of defensive lineage.

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“So, none of our terminology (on defense) is changing. Joe Bernardi is a very similar thing, too. He comes from the same background of what we were doing here, too. There’s not a lot of change in regards to how we do things but I do love the energy that both of them bring and they’re both really good recruiters.”

Gasparato, who last served as outside linebackers coach at Louisville, said there were a number of things that brought him to Troy.

“No. 1, this is a great program and history and it’s something, even as a kid watching football, you always saw Troy on TV winning big games that people would have said maybe they weren’t supposed to win,” Gasparato said of coming to Troy. “I was at Appalachian State for four years and being able to come down here and play here against these guys, it’s a great football town. Everyone loves it and it’s what they know.

“Coach Sumrall is the one for me, though, talking to him, his culture and his philosophy and who he is as a person and how he relates to people. He’s going to value family and kids and that’s important to me. All of that combined with the opportunity to call (the defense). It’s something you always want to do and plan for but until they give you the hat and whistle, you really don’t know what it’s going to be like.”

Gasparato’s connection with former Troy defensive coordinator Shiel Wood, who now works at Tulane, runs very deep.

“Shiel and I went to college together (at Wofford) and his wife, too,” Gasparato recalled. “We coached together at Wofford for several seasons, Shiel was the defensive coordinator and I coached the inside linebackers.

“I went to Army and I coached the safeties (and was co-defensive coordinator) and he coached inside linebackers. When I went to Louisville, he moved to (safeties and co-defensive coordinator). We’ve always kept in touch and throughout the season he just talked all year about how much he loved it here and the people here. He really liked living down here, so we still have a great connection.”

Interestingly enough, Bernardi shares a similar connection to Cole Popovich, Troy’s former offensive line coach that he is replacing.

“Cole and I were teammates (at Fresno State) and played on the same line in college,” Bernardi said. “We’re cut from the same cloth and believe in the same things. Because of the people we’ve worked with and have been around we might say things differently, but ultimately we have the same goals.”

That synergy between staff members was definitely appealing for Sumrall but he’s also looking forward to some of the differences they bring to the table.

“(Gasparato) is very detailed and extremely knowledgeable,” Sumrall said. “They did some things at Louisville the last couple of years that they changed that I think we can grow upon and I’m excited about trying some of those things.

“I really like (Bernardi’s) teaching style and his energy on the grass has been fun. I think most of those guys are enjoying the way he coaches and the energy he coaches with. He’s also extremely knowledgeable and a very smart guy.”

Energy is something that Sumrall repeatedly referred to with both of Troy’s new hires and Bernardi’s outward exuberance may be the biggest difference between he and his predecessor. At one point during Thursday’s practices, the 6-foot-2-inch former center could be seen breaking out a flip onto some of the pads in between fields.

“I tell my wife all the time, I’m probably the least mature of all her children,” Bernardi said with a smile. “It has to be fun, that’s one area I’m maybe a little different than Cole in. I’m going to have fun, I’m going to enjoy the game.

“This profession is too damn hard not to enjoy it. You have to have fun and laugh and smile and enjoy the people you do it with. Ultimately, you spend more time raising other people’s kids than you do your own and you spend more time with the people in this building than your own wife and kids. And, those (players) feed our families at the end of the day. They have to enjoy you and you have to enjoy them.”

Gasparato brings three things he refers to as “nonnegotiables,” to the Troy defense.

“I want us to be aggressive,” he continued. “We’re going to talk, we’re going to run and we’re going to hit. Those are our three nonnegotiables we talk about as a defense. It’s about our guys understanding what they’re supposed to do and not overcomplicating it.

“We have a great structure to be able to bring different (pass) rushers, different guys, from different spots and create some confusion. We have some pretty good guys up front that can get to the quarterback by themselves, too.”

Bernardi said he has some pretty simple goals for the Troy offensive line this spring.

“We want to stay healthy, know what to do, know how to do it and do it full speed,” he emphasized.

Bernardi and Gasparato will get back at it with their new Trojans on March 21 as the team returns from Spring Break to continue spring practices.