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Devillier stars as Plano East’s quarterback, Panthers build for future

by | Jul 18, 2023 | Sports

Plano East quarterback Drew Devillier returns as the starter for the third straight season, with increased expectations under center.

A lot of positives came from Devilier’s game last season. He threw for 2,271 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2022. He also recently committed to college for next season, as he’s set to attend Rice University with a chance to play both baseball and football at the next level.

With all that’s gone right for Devillier in the past year, the team has high expectations for their three-star quarterback heading into his senior season. Head coach Tony Benedetto believes he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the state as he’s working to improve his game every day.

“He’s motivated to get better,” Benedetto said. “He wants to be able to make plays with his feet when things break down and he showed that last year. He can escape the pocket and make a throw, but now he wants to be able to run the ball and pick up a first down.”

Of the little things Devillier is working to improve, part of it is play recognition from the quarterback position and being able to adjust the offense based on defensive alignments. The team has been challenging him in the spring and during 7-on-7 to read the game and call the plays for the team when needed.

“We can be in the wrong call from a coach’s standpoint, and he can get us in the right play,” Benedetto said. “When you have a quarterback that can do that and an offense that can adjust you can maximize the offense. He can do all that in the second year with our system and the third year as a starter.”

Benedetto sees Devillier’s potential as a quarterback and believes in the progress he’s made with offensive coordinator David Joeckel and quarterback coach Kevin Mikeska. As he continues to improve, the game will come even easier to the 6-foot-5 signal caller.

“The key for him will be making the right decisions throughout games,” Benedetto said. “Being more adaptive to what a defense is doing is something older quarterbacks can do compared to younger ones, and that burden is on him to help the offense execute.”

One major area of adjustment this season for Devillier will be not having his top target, Rushil Patel. The graduating senior moved on to Sam Houston State and accounted for half of Devillier’s yardage passing last season. With several seniors stepping into bigger roles in the offense, he shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to some of the new targets and spreading the ball around more.

“He did a great job of being a leader this offseason and into the summer,” Benedetto said. “He’s always looking to get guys together to throw and holding guys accountable if they run the wrong route. Not having a guy like Rushil or Brian [Dyer] on the field, he’s never really had to be that guy. So, it’s been good to see that growth on the field. Now he’s the older one with some of the less experienced receivers.”

Beyond Devillier, Plano East feels great about the options at quarterback in the future. Jackson Hays is a rising junior who started on junior varsity last season and is also the starting shortstop on the Panthers baseball team. He’ll take on the immediate backup role for this season.

East also has a rising sophomore in Jackson Howard, who started on the freshman team last season. A great athlete, Howard is on the varsity roster this year as a tight end, and he hopes to take over the quarterback job in the future as well.

The Plano East coaching staff is excited about Hays’ and Howard’s future and the position. They also have incoming freshman Josh Gordon, who is also in the pipeline and could start on the junior varsity team next season. All three options provide depth, but it also allows the team to feel confident in their options for at least the next four years.

“That position will be pretty stable for at least the next few seasons for us,” Benedetto said. “The program is in a great spot at quarterback and it’s something we’ve worked to figure out for the long haul.”

The Panthers know that only one quarterback can be on the field at a time, but also know that it is the most important position on the field. The team offers quarterback school in the summer to train and work with some of the younger players and help the team prepare for the future.

“I was told when I was starting as a coach that if I became a head coach, you have to know your quarterbacks all the way to sixth grade,” Benedetto said. “You must have at least two in each grade and we’re training them all every summer. It’s important to help the kids feel like Plano East is a part of their development at a young age, even if they’re only in middle school. We started that last summer, and we feel like it’s going to help us be prepared for the season and give us some competition every year.”

With plenty of quarterback options paired with a talented and experienced offensive line, Plano East is excited for the offense upside heading into 2023 but understands there are some questions heading into the new season.

“We have experienced players at quarterback and offensive line, but we have older players at receiver and running back but not really experienced,” Benedetto said. “I think having the quarterback and offensive line gives us a great floor to start with but seeing how those guys progress will be able to help us score points or not in the fall season.”

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