Devon Earl set to lead Alpharetta football’s overhauled defensive staff

By Zach Shugan

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Devon Earl might be younger than most of his peers in the coaching world, but the 26-year-old said he’s been dreaming about this moment for a “long, long time.”

After wrapping up a four-year career as a safety at the University of South Alabama in 2016, Earl entered the next chapter of his life, but he didn’t leave the game of football. Instead, he moved from the field to the sidelines and traded in his jersey and pads for a collared shirt and headset, beginning a new career as a coach.

Earl joined head coach Jason Kervin on Alpharetta’s coaching staff in 2020 as the safeties coach and special teams coordinator. One season later, he is set to take over as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator.

“It feels amazing, honestly,” Earl said. “I knew Alpharetta was the place I needed to be once Kervin got here. He brought me over last year, and this kind of happened quicker than I thought, but everything happens for a reason. I think God opens and closes doors for a reason, and I think God was just saying ‘Now is the time.’ I’m very, very excited.” 

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Becoming the defensive coordinator of a high school football team in Georgia’s biggest classification is a big responsibility, but Kervin wouldn’t have handed Earl the keys to Alpharetta’s defense if he didn’t have faith his former player. Earl was a standout at Hoover High School in Alabama, where Kervin coached prior to taking over as Alpharetta’s head coach.

When Kervin was putting together his coaching staff at Alpharetta prior to the 2020 season, he had Earl tabbed as a position coach who would one day become a coordinator.

After the Raiders’ former defensive coordinator John Thompson recently decided to re-unite with Tim McFarlin at Fellowship Christian, Kervin said he knew it was Earl’s turn to take over the defense.

“I told him when he came here he would be the next guy,” Kervin said. “I believed in him that much already. I know what quality person and player he was. When the opportunity came, it was a no-brainer for us.”

That won’t be the only change for Alpharetta’s defensive coaching staff. Joining Earl are two other former Division I college football players, Marcus Howard and Tre’ Jackson.

Howard, the former All-SEC pass rusher at Georgia, will serve as the Raiders’ co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. Howard was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2008 and played one year in the NFL before going on to a successful career in the Canadian Football League. Recently, he has gained notoriety as a coach by training local football players in private workout sessions.

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Jackson, a former linebacker at Georgia Tech, takes over as Alpharetta’s linebackers coach. Jackson played high school football at Lowndes, where he was a team captain as a senior in 2013, then went on to play for the Yellow Jackets.

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The three coaches, along with returning cornerbacks coach A.J. Merine, who played college football at Valdosta State, combine to make up one of the more unique coaching units in the North Fulton area.

While most high school football coaches played the sport at one point in their life, it’s rare to have a coach who played at a Division I level, let alone recently enough for their teenage players to pull up their highlights on YouTube.

“The guys I’ve talked to on defense are very excited,” Earl said. “I think we needed some more dynamic guys like myself that could give them that swagger and give them that energy day in and day out. And I think we just embrace the culture that we started last year. We had we had that, and we were trending in that in that direction. Now it’s not just me. It’s three of us now. It’s four of us, really, counting our cornerbacks coach A.J. Merine, so it’s a team effort. It’s huge to add some college experience, and they’re on that level. I think our guys are jumping off the walls right now.”

Alpharetta recently revealed its 2021 schedule, which includes non-region contests against Collins Hill, North Cobb and rival Chattahoochee, as well as a Week Two game on the road at Hoover (AL), where Kervin previously coahced and Earl previously played.

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