ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — A former J-Hawk has taken over as the head football coach of the J-Hawks this year at Jefferson. He’s Cody Casazza. He’s the latest in a long line of coaches who’ve come through that school attempting to change the J-Hawks’ fortunes.

It’s been 20 years since a Jefferson football team had a winning season. Casazza knows resurrecting this program isn’t a one-man job, so he’s brought on board some well-known assistant coaches including the man who coached him at Jefferson back in 2010 Rick Schmitz. There’s also former Dakota head coach Joe Free, and some former J-Hawks are on the staff.

“The enthusiasm is just kind of natural and organic with our staff, and it really rubs off on our kids,” said Casazza.

Casazza was the defensive coordinator at Rockford University last season. He graduated from Jefferson in 2011. It’s his identity that will become the J-Hawks’ identity.

“We really want to be a tough, smart, physical football team. Kind of getting back to the roots of what Jefferson is.”

Casazza says the running attack is going to be a big focus this year, but where does that leave returning starting quarterback Sebastian Bracius? He was the NIC-10’s second leading passer last season, and he set all sorts of school passing records.

“It’s about finding a way to balance it (the run and the pass) and play to our strength,” said Casazza. “Sebastian’s a smart kid. He’s a great leader. He understands why we’re doing what we’re doing, and he’s 1,000 percent in.”

Bracius still has 6’5 basketball standout Randy Johnson as a prime target at receiver. He has another tall receiver in Nytair Craig. The run game will feature backs Lashawn Gathright, and Brayden Luellen.

The J-Hawks have some big linemen for the trenches. There’s Prince Williams, Dontrell Fort, Blake Adrian and Nicolas Scott.

Craig, Luellen and Gathright will play linebacker.

The J-Hawks have only five seniors on the team. That means several underclassmen will be getting valuable experience this season.

“I feel this year, especially with the new coaching staff the kids are definitely getting their attitudes up thinking we can win some games this year,” said Scott.

“Our goals is to become a smarter football team, understand situation football, why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Casazza. “That’s just going to help us in the future, you know, next year and the year after.”