Written by Corbett Smith
Spring football report: Marcus' Deion Sanders Jr. moving to WR; 'D' might be its best in years
Team: Flower Mound Marcus
How the 2010 season ended: Marcus was in position to tie or win in the final seconds against Denton Guyer in the first round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs. Trailing 35-28 with 43 seconds remaining and facing fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Deion Sanders, Jr. threw what looked like a season-saving touchdown pass to Taylor Smith, but Smith was ruled out of bounds. Marcus finished 8-3, while Guyer advanced to the 5A Division II championship.
Key returning starters: Coach Bryan Erwin said that he thinks that next year's defense, which returns eight starters -- and several more players with extensive experience -- might be his best during his tenure at Marcus. Despite losing District 8-5A co-defensive player of the year nose guard Jason Neill, Erwin is ecstatic about his 4-3 front seven, with linebackers Joe Sikes and Alex Olson, defensive ends/outside linebackers Jake Blount and Matt Fortado, and defensive tackles Cameron Hajok and Zach Miterko. Marcus also has a good amount of experience in the secondary -- a necessity in that pass-happy district. Junior-to-be Court Prescott has been with the varsity since his freshman year, while Zack Richardson and Drew Hamrick also return in the secondary.
On offense, the team returns two full-time starters. Sanders, Jr. is back for his senior season, but he won't be used as a quarterback. He'll move to wide receiver. It should be a good move for both Marcus and Sanders, Jr.. Marcus needs to get away from being so one-dimensional, and Cole Erwin looked extraordinarily comfortable in a huge game as only a freshman, whle Sanders, Jr. should get increased recruiting attention playing his likely college position -- slot receiver.
All-district tight Michael O’Connell is one of three tight ends with experience, and Harvey Giddens -- who split time with departing all-district player Ryan Staffileno at fullback -- will move to tailback.
Biggest questions facing team: Who will carry the load? Marcus graduated its spectacular running back duo – Rufus Mason and Dagan Newsome – both of whom accounted for 3,167 yards and 25 touchdowns. For a run-first team that only threw for 605 yards last season, those are big shoes to fill. But Erwin downplayed that void, saying that he thought that Giddens -- who had 27 carries for 178 yards and five touchdowns last season -- could be special. Coppell transfer Jeff Smiley is expected to split time at tailback and defensive back.
Who will block for the running game? That -- Erwin said -- is the bigger concern. Marcus graduated all of its starting lineman from last season, including all-district tackle and Southern Arkansas signee Chris Merlene. Right tackle Ryan Rentfro -- who, at 6-5, 285 pounds, has interest from BCS schools -- is expected to fill Merlene's shoes. Center Ross Depperschmidt, guard Shane VanStrohe and left tackle Conner Sutherland all got on the field for stretches last season, which should ease the transition to a new line. With three returning tight ends, expect multiple packages including those players involved in the blocking scheme.
Notables: Erwin might be the only coach in the area that would say that finding a fullback is one of his team's biggest keys. "We're looking for a guy that has got a lot of want to," Erwin said. "The fullback position is the heartbeat of our offense." He also said that because the position is a "glorified guard" and used as a "battering ram," it's key to have two players split time. Seniors-to-be Devin Ryan and Logan Brown have both had good springs in that role.
With Sanders, Jr. moving to wide receiver, the quarterback position comes open for Marcus. For most teams, that's a huge deal. But most teams throw the ball more than 76 times (heck, Flower Mound nearly does that in a single game). Erwin's son, sophomore-to-be Cole Erwin, is the favorite to get the job at this point. Cole Erwin made a cameo fresh off the JV team in the playoff game against Guyer, and was splendid, going 8 of 10 for 98 yards and two touchdowns. "We're not ever going to be a four-wide team, but we definitely want to be more balanced," the elder Erwin said.
In March, Rivals.com analyst Brian Perroni wrote about Sanders, Jr., whom he saw in an offseason combine. Perroni said Sanders, Jr. "could make a good slot receiver at the next level. Though he did not play any offense at the camp, he showed the he runs fluidly and has pretty good speed." According to Rivals, he has one offer on the table from Houston, presumably at that position.
He said it: "[In the spring] we try to be as physical as we can. We want to establish our toughness, and this is the time of the year to do it. If you get a few injuries, a few guys banged up, they'll have time to get healthy. You can't do that when school starts up."
Spring football game info: June 2, at Marcus Marauders Stadium, 7 p.m.
Season Opener: vs. Waxahachie at Carrollton’s Standridge Stadium, 8-27
Full regular season schedule:
Aug. 27: vs. Waxahachie (Carrollton Standridge) at 8 p.m.
Sept. 2: vs. Grapevine at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8: at Arlington Lamar (Cravens) at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23: at Plano East* (Kimbrough) at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30: vs. Flower Mound* at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7: vs. Plano West* at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14: at Plano* (Kimbrough) at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21: vs. Allen* at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28: at Lewisville* at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4: vs. Hebron* at 7:30 p.m.
(* denotes District 8-5A game)