Zeller hired by Lenoir City to turn program around

Ex-Greeneville coach knows Region 4-3A well
By Jesse Smithey knoxnews.com

Mike Zeller is back in the high school coaching ranks.

The former Greeneville High School head football coach has taken the head job at Lenoir City, replacing Nick White, who stepped down in November after five seasons. White has since joined the Maryville High School coaching staff.

Zeller coached Greeneville for eight seasons (1999-2006) and compiled a 56-38 record. He reached the Class 4A state semifinals in 2000 and lost to eventual champion Maryville. He also led the Greene Devils to two quarterfinal appearances (2002, 2003).

His new gig in Loudon County will be a family homecoming of sorts. His wife, Leigh Ann, graduated from Loudon High School.

Zeller attended Highline High School in Seattle and played football at the University of Idaho. His last collegiate season was 1989.

He was head football coach at Sequatchie County in Dunlap, Tenn., 1996-1998 before taking over at Greeneville.

"We're just absolutely excited about getting him at Lenoir City," said Janet McGee, the athletic director at Lenoir City High School.

Lenoir City jumped from a 3A to 4A in 2006. That has produced a combined 1-19 record the past two seasons. Lenoir City plays in Region 3-4A with Maryville, West, Central, Halls, Powell, Clinton and South-Doyle.

Zeller is aware of the task at hand.

"Obviously when you jump to that level, the competition is better," said the 40-year-old Zeller. "And when you're in a region like we're in, it's going to be tough.

"(At Greeneville), we played Central twice and Maryville in the semifinals way back when. We scrimmaged Clinton. It's a tough region. We're just going to go down there and work hard and see what we can do."

Zeller said head coaches often come into a program wanting to implement their offensive and defensive philosophies - his are an I-formation offense and a 50 defense - but adjust to personnel. Zeller said he will do the same at Lenoir City.

In his latter seasons at Greeneville, he shifted his I-formation tendencies to the spread offense, he said, since he had the athletes to run it.

Zeller resigned as head coach at Greeneville in 2006, allowing him to enjoy more time with his 10-year-old twin daughters.

But he couldn't shake the football bug.

"It was nice coming home at 3 in the afternoon and having a lot of time on my hands, but I'm ready to get back into it," said Zeller, who will teach history. "I just felt like my heart was still in football and I was just waiting for the right opportunity.

"And when this came open, I went down and interviewed. And it just felt right."