Written by Corbett Smith
Changing seasons: Spring workouts end as players, coaches prepare for 2013 high school football season
They’ve put up the pads, done the last load of laundry and folded away the practice jerseys.
Spring practice for Class 5A and 4A teams is over.
But it’s not as if coaches will get too much time away from their programs. Most will follow — they are prohibited from coaching — their schools’ 7-on-7 teams this summer in tournaments, and they will throw open the weight rooms for voluntary summer workouts.
The opening kickoff for the 2013 season is just 81 days away.
Here are a few highlights from the spring:
Offense is potent, but defense is inexperienced at Lovejoy
For the better part of spring practice, Lovejoy coach Matt Green watched his offense roll up and down the field. For an offensive-minded coach like Green, in his second year at Lovejoy after serving as the offensive coordinator for juggernaut Lake Travis, it was by equal measure exciting and concerning.
The offense returns eight starters, including sophomore-to-be quarterback Bowman Sells — who threw for 2,632 yards and 25 touchdowns as a freshman in 2012 — and running back Daniel Sefcik (868 rushing yards, 690 receiving yards last season).
“The expectations are high,” Green said. “At every position, we’ve got experienced guys coming back who are pretty good.”
The defense, though, is a work-in-progress — with only three starters returning.
“We’ve got some really talented kids on defense, but it’s just very inexperienced,” Green said.
Green said he was a little stunned to find, at one point, six freshmen running with the first-team defense.
Cedar Hill reserves have great examples to follow
Wide receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Quincy Adeboyejo will play a major role in Cedar Hill’s off-season program. No, the duo haven’t found any extra high school eligibility; Briscoe is fighting to stay on the Washington Redskins roster and Adeboyejo is preparing to head off for his freshman year at Ole Miss.
But Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire will use both as examples of players who used the spring and summer heading into their senior seasons to get ready to dominate.
“With the work that they put in during the summer, and in camps and combines, they got themselves in such good shape physically, they were ready to go in the fall,” McGuire said.
Both players had marginal contributions as juniors, then exploded onto the scene in their final high school season. Briscoe had one catch as a junior, before leading the team in receptions and yards for the 2006 undefeated state champs. Adeboyejo went from five catches in 2011 to 91 in 2012, helping Cedar Hill into the 5A Division II state final.
McGuire said he was pleased with his team’s hunger for improvement, using as motivation Cedar Hill’s loss to Katy in the title game. All of next year’s projected starting defense either started or played during the championship game, including standout linebacker Doevan Dillard (143 tackles, eight sacks).
Will small-town ways work at Plano East?
As Plano East’s new coach, Randy Jackson oversaw only two practices and the spring game — coming over in late May from Mesquite Poteet.
“It was tough,” Jackson said. “They were running schemes they aren’t going to run, doing drills they aren’t going to do. I tried to just observe the first day, but I couldn’t do it. The second day, I introduced a few drills — something we did at Poteet. But it was strange. Bizarre is almost the word to describe it.”
Despite those hurdles, Jackson is excited about the scope of his new job — at last alignment, the state’s largest high school. Plano East has separate 9th and 10th grade campuses, as well as four middle schools that funnel directly into the senior campus. As Jackson sees it, that’s 14 quarterbacks developing at lower levels each season.
He said that if he could get the 42 coaches working at those schools to work on the same page, Plano East could “be special.” His focus will be trying to build a small-school mentality into a large system like Plano, building relationships between junior high players and the high school’s coaching staff and creating “buy-in” at all levels.
“If we can get everyone in lock-step, using the same schemes, the same terminology, all moving forward together — if you could make that happen, I think this program can really take off,” Jackson said.
Familiar name at QB for Highland Park
One of the rites of spring is to see which quarterback takes the reins at Highland Park — a school which famously churns most of its starters each season, discovering another talented and poised senior class in the wings.
This season, Brooks Burgin is the favorite at quarterback coming out of the spring, according to Highland Park coach Randy Allen, leading slightly in a spirited competition with John Robert Gilley.
“They both threw the ball well,” Allen said. “But Brooks was a little better running the ball this spring.”
If Burgin’s name seems familiar, that’s because he’s the younger brother of a long line of HP quarterbacks.
His older brothers, Blake and Brady Burgin, played quarterback for Highland Park.
Brady was a two-year starter (2010-11), passing for 5,300 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Blake — now a football graduate assistant at Mary Hardin-Baylor — never broke in as a starter on varsity, playing behind Luke Woodley in 2008, but knew the offense well, Allen said.
The family’s institutional knowledge of Highland Park’s offensive schemes has paid dividends.
“The younger brother learns it from the older brother who learns it from an older brother,” Allen said. “It’s worked out pretty well.”
Coppell coach happy with young offense
There’s little doubt Coppell will have a strong defense for the 2013 season, anchored by 6-3, 280-pound defensive end Solomon Thomas. Thomas, one of the nation’s top recruits, announced in late May that he’d narrowed his list of possible schools to 13, including programs such as Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon.
The question, however, will be if Coppell — surprisingly ranked No. 13 in a national preseason poll by MaxPreps — can move the ball with as much success as it did last season. Bridgeport transfer Colby Mahon did a great job managing Coppell’s offense in 2012, passing for 25 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Coach Joe McBride said he was pleased with the development of his offense, relying on several young receivers and three inexperienced quarterbacks. Junior-to-be Skyler Bonneau might be the favorite to win the starting job, already with varsity time at quarterback last season. Sophomores-to-be Myles Paschall and Caleb Griffin are also in the competition.
“All of them did pretty dang good [in the spring game],” McBride said.
Running back, McBride said, is a position of depth, with as many as five players angling for playing time.
Lancaster coach hopes to develop new talent
Lancaster coach Chris Gilbert waxed philosophically about breaking through for a school-best 14-2 finish and a runner-up trophy in Class 4A Division II.
Gone are a lot of pieces from that winning puzzle, including defensive end Daeshon Hall (Texas A&M), quarterback Demarcus Ayers (Houston) and cornerback Dakota Austin (Oklahoma).
“That’s the ebb and flow of football at the high school and college level,” Gilbert said. “You have guys, and then you lose them. That’s the nature of it all. Of course, you want to always be relevant. You have to keep developing players.”
Maybe the biggest loss was the transfer of junior Nick Harvey. Harvey, a 5-11, 180-pound Texas A&M pledge now at Fort Bend Travis, was a jack-of-all-trades in 2012, scoring 17 touchdowns on offense, grabbing seven interceptions and playing on special teams.
“You just don’t replace that guy,” Gilbert said. “He did so much for us. It’s going to have to be a group effort to fill in, because he played four or five positions for us.”
But the cupboard isn’t bare. Gilbert was impressed with the decision-making of senior-to-be Chris Thomas, who will move from wide receiver to quarterback — as Ayers did. In fact, Gilbert said the two share a good bit in common, being small and elusive athletes.
“I’m real excited about what he can be in that position,” Gilbert said.
Lancaster’s group of returning receivers — with Nick Alexander and Tim Taylor — is the most veteran corps returning. The linebacker and secondary units are also strong, with Derrick Leonard and Oklahoma pledge Vontre McQuinnie.
Arl. Martin defensive end drawing eyes, comparisons
The list of college coaches who have set foot on Arlington Martin’s campus to catch a glimpse of defensive end Myles Garrett is impressive — Nick Saban, Les Miles, Kevin Sumlin, Mack Brown and Art Briles, to name a few.
Martin coach Bob Wager called Garrett the most sought-after recruit during his tenure.
“No doubt,” Wager said. “It’s not even close.”
That speaks volumes, considering the big-time talent the school has produced in recent years, including last year’s Associated Press Big 12 defensive player of the year, TCU sophomore-to-be defensive end Devonte Fields.
When looking at Garrett, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with Fields. Wager said Garrett (6-5, 250) has added 15 to 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season, and now “looks like there’s an NFL football player walking down our hallways.”
What separated Fields at the high school — and now collegiate — level was his relentless motor.
According to Wager, Garrett showed flashes of such dominance in the spring.
“He has more moments now where he’s unblockable,” Wager said. “That’s what we need to figure out, how to be more consistently unblockable. When he wants to, it’s over. We have some good tackles, but it’s not a fair fight. But we’ve got to learn that every single snap is a fistfight that we’ve got to win.”
SportsDayHS spring football rankings
Based on staff votes
3. Southlake Carroll
4. Euless Trinity
6. Arlington Bowie
7. Cedar Hill
8. Plano West
1. Denton Guyer
3. Mesquite Poteet
4. Highland Park
8. West Mesquite