Hoping for a better result this time around

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Together again -- but hoping for completely different results.

Two of head coach Mike Kelly's new assistant coaches with the Blue Bombers -- Mark Nelson and Ronnie Vinklarek -- were part of Kelly's staff at his only other head coaching gig, at Valdosta State University.

It wasn't exactly a memorable period in the Division II school's history, as the team went 6-5, 5-6, then 4-5 before Kelly was fired late in his third season (1999). Compare that to the 10-3 record Valdosta had the year before Kelly arrived, or its 10-2 mark the year after he left.

"They had 25 seniors the year before we got there that were highly successful," Kelly said. "Our first two years we were playing with freshmen and sophomores. And we got started late."

Late in his third season, Kelly's only head coaching gig came to an inglorious end.

"Was everything hunky dory down there? No," he said. "They ran an article one time, 'Will the Connecticut Yankee stay in the land of sweet tea and watermelon?' There's still some Civil War issues down there.

"And as you know, I sometimes just say what I'm thinking. And that didn't always play well."

Kelly joined Valdosta after five mostly successful years co-ordinating Winnipeg's offence under head coach Cal Murphy.

But his offence at Valdosta, with a different quarterback every year, was ineffective, compared to the years that preceded and followed his tenure.

"We probably tried to do too much, early," Kelly said. "We came in from this league and the kids couldn't grasp it all. My third year I really scaled it down."

It was too late.

Taking over for Kelly, on an interim basis, was his defensive co-ordinator, Mark Nelson, who holds the same position on Kelly's Winnipeg staff.

"It was a learning experience," Nelson said of the Valdosta years. "You learn, and you keep getting better. I coach good players better than I coach bad players."

Vinklarek had left Valdosta after just one season.

Kelly went on to the XFL's Orlando Rage in 2001.

"And we go 8-2," he said. "So it wasn't like I was dumb at Valdosta and got smart in one year.

"We had three really good recruiting classes there. Those kids when they became seniors and juniors... they went to the national championship game."


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