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Wesleyan names Pridgen head football coach

Wesleyan ended its search for a head football coach quickly when it hired current assistant Franklin Pridgen on Tuesday.

Pridgen has been at Wesleyan for a total of six years, including three as defensive coordinator. He replaces Phillip Deas, who surprisingly left Wesleyan just before Christmas after only one season at the Norcross private school. Deas returned to his alma mater, prep power Evangel Christian (La.).

Wesleyan athletic director DeWayne Cupples said the school didn't feel the need to open up the job to outside applicants again because they had such a good candidate on staff in Pridgen.

"Franklin has been an assistant here, he's been at Wesleyan a total of six years," Cupples said. "He's a solid guy I like a lot. He understands the mission of the school and he knows the kids well. It's just a great fit."

Pridgen, who played high school football at Westminster under the legendary Wayman Creel, was an assistant to Wesleyan's first head football coach, Will Jackson, when the Wolves started their program in the late 1990s. He left coaching briefly to pursue a business opportunity, but returned to Wesleyan in 2003 because he missed coaching and the school.

An Atlanta native, he considers the area - and Wesleyan - home.

"I told the kids (on Tuesday), Wesleyan is my dream job and they are the kids I dream of coaching," Pridgen said. "I'm going to stay here as long as they'll have me, which is hopefully a long time."

The 35-year-old has never been a head coach, but has worked for four years at Athens Academy and for one year at Lovett. He also has the six years of experience at Wesleyan, most of them under Jackson, a highly respected person in the Wolves' community.

During his tenure at Wesleyan, Pridgen also has grown close with his players.

"I think the kids, first and foremost, is why I'm excited about the job," Pridgen said. "We always seem to get the kind of players in our program at Wesleyan who give the maximum amount of effort all the time. They're very coachable and they want to succeed."

Pridgen remained intentionally vague on Wesleyan's offensive plans for next season - Deas ran a pass-heavy attack - but did say he would call all the offensive plays. He expects to retain Brian Krehmeyer as defensive coordinator, as well as most of the current staff.

The school's new head coaching hire gives the program stability in the wake of Deas' sudden departure.

"The state of Wesleyan football is strong," Pridgen said. "We've made the state playoffs six years in a row. We're eager to not only continue the run, but take the next step."