OAKLAND -- Edward Smith was pressured into taking the head coaching job at Skyline High School.
Not by administrators at Skyline. Not by the players he would be coaching. No, he was pressured by about seven barbers in a barbershop in Union City.
"I've been going to this barber for seven or eight years," Smith said. "I went to the Skyline interview. Every barber there went to Skyline. As soon as I told the barber, seven barbers all looked up and said, 'I went there,' or, 'My cousin went there. You've got to take that job.'"
Smith enters his first season at Skyline understanding the tradition at the school. In fact, he said that tradition is something he embraces.
"I'm just really excited about the opportunity, to be able to coach at a place like this," he said. "You're just not going to get the type of player at most public schools that you get there. You've got players on the team that their dads played there. Skyline is different than other schools. If we don't win state, we've got to win Silver Bowl. You've got to set your standards high."
That might seem lofty based on recent results, and the fact that the Titans didn't even field a junior varsity team last year, but Smith said the athletes are still there. The key is getting them to do the work -- on and off the field -- to build on a 6-4 season a year ago.
"For us, it's always going to be, 'What we do off the field is always going to affect what we do on the field,'" he said. "If we go to class. If we get numbers out there, we're going to be successful. If you get numbers, you'll get certain types of athletes. It's all about, 'Are you going to study hall, are you lifting weights, are you going to class?' The athlete at Skyline is still here. They have to believe, 'If I go to class, and I do the little things, then I'm going to be successful.'"
One athlete who isn't going to be there is last year's standout Kendrick Payne, now at Arkansas.
However, there's plenty of talent ready to step into Payne's roles as big-play receiver, kick returner and defensive back. Jacquese Steen (5-foot-11, 215 pounds) will line up at middle linebacker and fullback. Smith said he's drawing interest from Pac-12 schools. Wide receiver/defensive back Golden Venters (6-3, 170) is also back.
Jean Claude (6-0, 235) returns on the offensive line and at linebacker. Steen and Claude made first team all-Oakland Athletic League last year at linebacker and offensive lineman respectively. Venters made second team at wide receiver.
The big questions are on the lines, where several players have graduated. Sophomore Jaasan Andrews (6-5, 265) has huge talents and once he get settled in, should be an anchor.
Smith said he's got good numbers out so far -- about 45 players on the varsity and another 35 for junior varsity. And the kids want to work.
"All of the kids have been great," he said. "They want to work a lot. They want to practice a lot."
9/6 at Seaside 7:30 p.m.
9/13 at Amador Valley 7 p.m.
9/20 at St. Francis-M.V. 7:30 p.m.
9/27 at Clayton Valley C. 7 p.m.
10/4 MADERA 7 p.m.
10/18 at Oakland Tech* 3:30 p.m.
10/25 at McClymonds* 3:30 p.m.
11/1 FREMONT* 3:30 p.m.
11/9 CASTLEMONT* 2 p.m.
11/16 OAKLAND* 2 p.m.