Written by Corbett Smith
Coppell spring football report: Which QB takes reins under new coordinator?
How the 2011 season ended: With its starting and back-up quarterbacks lost for the season, Coppell sputtered down the stretch -- scoring 10 points or less in three of its final five games. Coppell finished at 6-4, 3-4 in 7-5A, and missed the playoffs.
Key returning starters: Coach Joe McBride returns 11 starters and many other players with varsity experience. He called his team's experience one of its biggest strengths. Defensively, Coppell has a great blend of talent all across the field. Its two ends -- junior-to-be Soloman Thomas and senior-to-be William Udeh -- are as good as anyone in the area. McBride called Thomas (6-4, 255) a "national recruit" and a great leader. Udeh (6-1, 240) has interest from Big 12 schools. The secondary has three core players back: Jacob Logan (5-10, 185), Colin Peterson (6-1, 175) and Omari Cole (5-11, 175). Outside linebacker Tanner Masters (6-1, 205) is part of a 10-player Leadership Council, a big reason for McBride's excitement. These core group of leaders have kept Coppell focused and motivated over the course of the spring. "This group of kids as just really honed in on getting us right back where we expect to be," McBride said. Offensively, five starters return. Senior-to-be Luke Jenner (5-10, 185) rushed for 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Wide receivers Logan and Jacob Lister (6-0, 175) and tight end Josh Self (6-3, 225) give Coppell's passing game some veteran targets.
Biggest questions facing team: Who will win the starting quarterback job? Last year, McBride had the luxury of turning to senior Jake Larson, a prototypical pocket passer with a strong arm, to step in for departing senior Joe Minden. But Larson and his back-up, Matt Gillen, suffered season-ending injuries against Denton Guyer in the team's fifth game. Gillen, a senior-to-be, had been moved to receiver to take advantage of his athleticism. He injured his throwing shoulder two series before Larson went down with an ACL tear. Gillen is in the mix for the starting QB job, along with Bridgeport transfer Colby Mahon. A senior-to-be, Mahon threw for 3,003 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2011 for 7-4 Bridgeport, a 3A school. McBride said no one is in the lead at this point, and they might split minutes in the regular season. Gillen is a little better athlete, and Mahon has a little better arm, McBride said. What changes will new offensive coordinator Mike Odle bring to the table?Last season, McBride fired his offensive coordinator mid-season, and made due until he could bring in Barbers Hill OC Mike Odle in January. McBride is ecstatic about the job that Odle has done thus far. Coppell's new offense will be what McBride called a "multiple I", but it sounds even more flexible, with multiple receiver and back packages, one to three tight end looks, and about 50 percent of the time in the shotgun. McBride said that Odle has done a great job taking advantage of the personnel that he has, and tailoring an offense that matches their abilities.
Notables: Whenever teams line up in the new District 5-5A, they'll be a lot of coaching ties tangled in the new alignment. McBride has worked with Hebron's Brian Brazil as his defensive coordinator. New Flower Mound coach Dane Johnson has worked with both Brazil and McBride, as Hebron's secondary coach. And Odle worked with Randy Mayes and Bryan Erwin at Flower Mound Marcus.
He said it: "We were young last year. I think that experience, and probably also just a hunger to get us back, are our biggest strengths. I think our kids have gone through some adversity in some things last year: injuries, not meeting our expectations. I think this group is really hungry." -- McBride
Spring football game info: 7 p.m., Thursday, May 24 at Buddy Echols Field
Season opener: vs. Longview at the Tom Landry Classic at SMU on Sept. 1.
Full regular season schedule:
Sept. 1: Longview (at SMU/Tom Landry Classic) at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7: McKinney Boyd at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: at Rockwall at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: Garland at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: Allen at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12: at Hebron* at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19: at Flower Mound* at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26: Flower Mound Marcus* at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1: at Denton Ryan* at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9: Lewisville* at 7:30 p.m.
* - district game