Abbeville’s varsity football team has a new defensive coordinator.

Ellis Belton, who served as the junior varsity head coach, has been promoted to the position that was vacated when Tad DuBose accepted the head coaching job at Emerald High School.

“Big shoes to fill. Big shoes to fill,” Belton said. “Coach DuBose will be greatly missed. I’m honored, humbled and appreciative. Hard work pays off — and it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Belton was a member of the 1991 state championship Panthers team, playing as a wide receiver on offense and as a defensive back. He’s been coaching the jayvee squad for the past four years and has been involved with the program for about a decade.

“I’ve known him since he coached my sons in rec ball,” Abbeville head coach Jamie Nickles said. “He’s a lot like me. He’s a relationship guy. He has relationships with all of our kids. He has a personal relationship with each and every person associated with Abbeville football.”

Belton is not unfamiliar with being on the sidelines with Nickles. He was there on Friday nights in an assistant role.

“As the head jayvee coach, he’s had to learn it all,” Nickles said. “He has called plays on the jayvee, made all decisions for the jayvee, and I think he’s ready for this position. He’s an Abbeville guy. We’ll be asking him to coach in his style and his personality.”

Hiring from within the program factored into Nickles’ decision.

“Just the knowledge of the kids and the relationship with me,” Nickles said. “I really like the way our defense works. We have a system in place, and, although we did give some points up at the end of last year, I don’t feel like the system is broke. I just feel like we need to improve on some things.”

Nickles said the players will welcome the news of Belton’s promotion.

“I think everybody is excited,” Nickles said. “Everybody respects and loves coach BB — they call him coach BB.”

Getting Belton in place before the start of spring football was a priority for Nickles, the coach said.

Belton coached for eight years at Wright Middle School before joining Abbeville’s jayvee program. He is still involved in the rec league program, and he sees it as important to the continued success of Abbeville football.

“The greatest advantage I have is that I’ve watched the kids grow,” Belton said. “I know a lot of the talent before they ever see them at the high school level. I have a lifelong relationship with most of the guys that come through. I see them when they’re babies and when they’re young.”

Belton said the high school team is only as good as its feeder program.

“That is what I base our talent off of,” Belton said. “Our future is bright. Our rec department is still doing what we put in place years ago, and it’s consistently worked year after year. We have coaches at the rec league who are still installing the high school mentality and discipline. It follows from the rec league to the middle school and to the high school.”

Contact staff writer Greg K. Deal at 864-943-5647 or follow on Twitter @IJDEAL.