When coach Jeff Thomas decided to shift his efforts full-time to defense and special teams this season, that opened the door for somebody else to call offensive plays at the University of Puget Sound.
Which is like handing over the keys to a purring McLaren F1 sports car.
The weekly offensive game-planning is split between run-game coordinator Rob Clements, a UPS alumnus, and pass-game coordinator Taylor Chapatte, a former Redlands University wide receiver.
But on Saturdays, it’s the 26-year-old Chapatte’s job to signal in plays, and get the UPS offense moving — and scoring.
“The one thing I learned from Jeff last year, you do not need to get too creative,” Chapatte said. “It is all about how to get your best players the football.”
Thomas has had a hand in Chapatte’s college career from the beginning.
Chapatte was a receiver and quarterback at Mount Carmel High School in San Diego whom Thomas recruited to SCIAC member Redlands in 2008.
Two years later, Thomas — then the Redlands offensive coordinator — left to take over as the coach at UPS.
“We were surprised he left,” Chapatte said, “but knew there was the potential he would get another job.”
Chapatte played for two more offensive coordinators at Redlands, finishing up in 2011.
But he stayed on with the football team as a graduate assistant for the next three seasons.
It was during his first year as a part-time assistant that Chapatte constantly saw Thomas on the recruiting trail.
“His name kept coming up with a bunch of players we were recruiting,” Thomas said.
That stuck with Thomas when an opening came up on his own staff after offensive coordinator Jeff Halstead left in 2015 to concentrate fully on being a baseball coach.
“Recruiting was our biggest motivation in hiring him (Chapatte),” Thomas said. “We needed to find somebody who could recruit high-academic NCAA Division III athletes.”
The revelation for Thomas in hiring Chapatte as the new recruiting coordinator and receivers coach was his keen understanding of how to design offensive plays.
In fact, during the Loggers’ first game last season at Claremont, the first time Chapatte suggested a play call before a second-half series started, Thomas ran it — and the result was a red-zone touchdown.
“It was a little option route to an inside receiver (Kevin Miller),” Chapatte said. “The linebacker kept walking up to the line of scrimmage, so it got Kevin in open space.”
Last year, UPS finished 6-3, its first winning season since 2006. Two months later, defensive coordinator Jeff Ramsey was lured away to Wabash College in Ohio, and Thomas decided to move to that side of the ball.
It was time for somebody else to call plays — and Thomas selected Chapatte for that important responsibility.
“He is able to see things three-dimensionally,” Thomas said, “when most are stuck seeing the play in the playbook.”
Thomas has final say on play calls, and has overruled Chapatte in key situations, particularly on fourth downs or at the end of a game.
But overall, Thomas leaves the game-planning to Clements and Chapatte — and the calls to the person who refers to himself as a “coaching junkie.”
So far, so good — the Loggers (2-0) are second in the Northwest Conference in total offense (559.5 yards per game) and scoring (40.0 points per game).
“We are definitely happy with two wins,” Chapatte said. “Our red-zone and third-down offense isn’t where it should be, but everything else has been pretty solid.”