By Greg Ford
For the first time in several years, the same person who coached them in the fall is leading the Plano East football team at spring practice.
For years, that was Johnny Ringo, but since he left the PESH campus a few years back, the reins were taken over by two men, first Randy Jackson for a year and then alumnus Joey McCullough, who’s rookie campaign was 2014.
Now, McCullough is heading into his second season at East, and this spring the work that began last fall and this winter continues under his tutelage and the other coaches he’s brought aboard.
“We have a lot of things going on,” McCullough said. “We’re working on getting kids better and more practice. The tempo has been great.”
East fans will get a good look at the potential 2015 Panthers during the May 15 Spring Showcase at Kimbrough Stadium,
The two main goals during this past offseason, the coach noted, were getting players stronger and teaching football.
It helps that East will return eight players on offense and nine on defense. Not only does that mean PESH will field an experienced team this fall, but also one that understands what McCullough wants to do and accomplish. Part of the doing includes installing a 4-3 defensive alignment after many years in a 3-4.
“It’s all about putting speed on the field,” McCullough said. “We have some guys like Grayson Diepenbrock, who is a 4.7 (40) and played linebacker last year, going to an end. Will Garrey will play some linebacker and end. Michael McNair is back from last year, and is a 4.7 guy playing defensive end. We’ve Dieon Davis and Bryson Royal back from last year. Anthony Hines is back and our whole secondary is back from last year.”
The coach added, “We went to the four-man front against Allen (in the 2014 regular-season finale), and played really well. Our kids are adapting to it. I think they believe in it.”
He added, “We’re working on the basic fundamentals, and we’re talking about being balanced in the secondary and we’re talking about keeping two safeties on top; limiting the big play and make people drive the length of the field.”
Miklo Smalls, who fought through injuries in 2014, will be the signal caller again this season.
This spring he’ll be working on timing with two wide outs, Ade Omotosho and Tim Wilson, each of whom is Div. I college material, McCullough said. Also back are East’s other receivers: Zadok Wilson, Cameron Moore and Carson Young.
A big key to making the passing game work will be the rushing attack, and it appears the Panthers are solid there, too. One big addition, McCullough said, is Desmond Bowden, who comes to East following the closing of the Prime Prep Academy.
“He will be our senior leader going into the backfield,” McCullough said. “He’s a guy who (runs) downhill and has a lot of ability.”
A trio of current freshmen — they’ll be sophomores this fall — also should see time with the pigskin: Trey Hunter, Jonathan Meadors and Nathan Miller.
“All three of these guys are doing a great job for us,” McCullough said.
The coach is also enthusiastic about his potentially deep offensive line, which could have Dane Cordell back at center, Cole Moore at left guard and Casey Verhulst at left tackle.
“We have several guys in that starting role,” the coach said. “We are wanting to be two-deep (along the line).”
He added, “We have added some size and we have some depth … More than anything, they have got attitude. I have been stressing it all year: attitude and effort. If you have those two, you have a chance to win.”