‘Professor’ Marc Davies Provides Lessons on Football, Life for Macalester Scots
Macalester College is one of the finest academic institutions in all of America. They are always ranked in the top 25 schools for academic greatness and boast a student body that is bright, introspective and imaginative. This is just as true for the 80-plus guys who don a uniform for the Macalester Scots football team, and to reach this exceptional group of athletes Head Coach Tony Jennison has turned to Marc Davies to guide his offense in the art of football brilliance.
We kid Coach Davies by referring to him as the “Professor,” because he modestly doesn’t see himself as that smart. “No, I am really not that smart of a guy, especially when I compare myself to the players on my team.” While he may not see the brilliance in himself, it doesn’t take long to grasp how truly brilliant and insightful he is.
In a day and age where football coaches such as Bill Bellichek and Nick Saban are called geniuses for how they get the most out of their football teams, and rightfully so, Coach Davies is a different kind of coach. This is a guy who uses football not just to teach life lessons, but to teach lessons about the universe, who measures his offense’s success with sabermetrics, and whose game plans are designed to push the envelope and challenge his players to try things they wouldn’t have imagined they could do.
Just three seasons ago Marc Davies was the special teams’ coach who had also been working with the team’s offensive line. These were jobs that he relished, and was very successful at. Game plans were completely his for special teams, and he enjoyed the challenges of having to design and implement schemes with very little preparation and practice time to implement them. Two seasons ago the position of offensive coordinator became available, and Coach Jennison knew that there was only one choice. “We didn’t even have to think about it. Marc was the perfect choice. I don’t even think there was a discussion of who we would put in that position. We just knew he was the guy who take this spot.”
Coach Jennison had all the confidence in the world, but Davies felt that his first season in command of the offense was not one he was especially proud of. “After last season I would think he (Coach Jennison) would have thought he was a little crazy to have hired me. We were a little scatter-brained on offense last season, and I don’t really think I had done anything to have deserved his confidence in me.”
The harsh evaluation of his performance is not a surprising one. No Macalester Scots coach or player would be beating a drum talking about “I am the reason we are 5-1.” That isn’t the Scots’ way, and Coach Davies is no different, however, his first season as coach did come with some serious challenges that were beyond his control. Star running back Zandy Stowell was hurt in the fourth game of the season and was done for the year, and his outstanding quarterback, Samson Bialostok, hurt his knee early in the season and played several weeks with limited mobility. With injuries to two of the team’s biggest cogs it was easy to see why Davies was forced to reinvent the team on the fly.
This season he has Stowell back and a healthy Bialostok, and as a result the Macalester offense is playing at a very high level. They are third in the Midwest Conference (MWC) in total offense, averaging 396.3 yards per game, and are No. 1 in rushing offense (230.7).
What makes this offense really special is that it is the little things they are doing that demonstrate how successful this group is becoming. Bialostok has thrown just four interceptions this season, second least in the conference, and he has thrown none in his last four games, a span of 95 attempts. The Scots have a stellar 44.8% third-down conversion rate, ranked third in the conference. The little nuances are the things that are turning this season around on offense for the team, and a large part of the credit belongs to the Macalester Offensive Coordinator.
While he may deny his role in the success of the offense (which is what we all expect from the Scots coaching staff), the reality is that this is a very bright, young man. His Head Coach hired him for that very reason. “Marc is just smart. He creates unique game plans and really is inventive in the things he does. He is just a very smart guy.”
A look at the academic success of the team and it is easy to see that a special kind of coach is needed at Macalester if they are going to be taken seriously. A curse-laden Bobby Knight type tirade is not going to be embraced by these players. A John Madden explanation that included a bunch of “pows” and “bams” would only go so far in inspiring this group. These are brilliant young men, and they need a brilliant coach to get through to them. They need a Marc Davies.
This is something that he does acknowledge for his players and himself. “I don’t think I would be a success at many colleges. I think I am a good fit here because the players can relate more to me and me to them. The atmosphere generated by Coach Jennison here is ideal for me and for the players, and I think this is why I fit in so well here.”
To fit in is exactly what Davies was looking for six years ago. He had left the coaching profession, disillusioned over what he referred to as the “Jekyll and Hyde Coaches” who acted one way one moment and an entirely different way the next. He moved to the business world, but felt a longing to return to coaching. Offers came, but he was not going to return until he found the right one. Then Coach Jennison came calling. “I loved the way Coach Jennison led the team, and his integrity. I knew this was the guy I could work with and who I could respect and would respect me and the players.”
Davies became an instant success with the team. The offense set several records during his time as offensive line coach, and on special teams his teams produced at a high-level. In his last season before becoming the offensive coordinator, the Scots were 18th in the country in punt return yardage and 21st in least punt return yardage allowed. He was making a big impact on the team.
While his brilliance and ingenuity were a big part to his success, there was another aspect that was equally as important – his rapport with his players. He didn’t just relate to his team; he embraced them as part of his family. Their success mattered to him and their problems were his problems. In the game against Beloit, the Scots came out sluggish and found themselves down by 11 at half to a team that on paper they should have beaten easily. Many understood that the team lacked energy; Davies understood why. “It had been a brutal last couple of weeks for these guys at school. They had midterms and so the energy wasn’t where it needed to be at.”
His understanding of the players is one of the reasons why Coach Jennison has such faith in him. “The players really learn well from him, because he is such a relatable guy. He has a way of talking to them that they get and that makes a difference.”
This is one of the reasons for the team’s success. Coach Jennison has created an atmosphere of excellence and brotherhood, but he chose two guys, Marc Davies and Defensive Coordinator Marshall Mullenbach, to be his lieutenants in implementing that plan. Both came from high academic institutions (Mullenbach graduated from Macalester and Davies from St. Olaf), and so both are not only brilliant football minds, but simply smart in general. They understand this particular group of student athletes, and as a result the two get the best out of them.
Marc Davies has done a great job with the Macalester Scots offense. He knows he is just getting started however. He is teaching his players to not only be successful in the classroom and life in general, but to be equally so on the field. Coach Davies is a humble, understanding, likeable guy who is quickly becoming one of the bright, young coaches in Division-III football. No, the Scots offensive coordinator is not a John Madden or a Nick Saban, but there sure is a lot of Bill Walsh in the “Professor.” This Saturday he will provide another lesson in art of offensive ingenuity. So sit down; class is about to begin.
By Robert Pannier