With spring sports championships in the rearview mirror, the focus turns to spring football. Here, our high school sports staff takes a look at some of the more intriguing story lines of spring practice.
NEW FACES TAKE OVER
Two coaches with shared history and recent success take another step in their new roles this week with the start of spring practices.
Shannon Watford and Darrell Hall coached together when Watford was the head coach at Star Spencer.
Watford won state titles the last two years at Hennessey. Hall won the 2009 Class 4A title at Star Spencer and the 2010 title at Tulsa Washington.
Now, they're both starting over.
Watford left Hennessey to go to Purcell, where the Dragons went 9-1 last season before being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Hall left the Hornets to come to Midwest City, where Steve Huff had coached the Bombers to four undefeated seasons in six years.
Other coaches starting new eras in their programs include Jeff Brickman (Southmoore), Marvin Dantzler (Tulsa Washington), Scott Myers (Chandler) and Todd Watters (Moore).
By Ryan Aber
GUTHRIE REPLACING KEY PLAYERS
Guthrie coach Rafe Watkins said he doesn't worry too much about spring football.
“I just don't get really excited about it,” he said. “You do so much in the summer anymore with camps and passing leagues. I know there's a lot of schools that go the full 10 days, but we'll go five with shoulder pads and helmets.”
The defending Class 5A champion Bluejays return many of their top players from last season, but they still have some big shoes to fill.
Top linebackers Landry Chappell and John Clark are gone, as are four offensive linemen and running back/safety Luke Davis, the district's Most Valuable Player who rushed for 1,530 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior.
Beau Davis, Andrew Toney and Blaze Hastings will compete for starting linebacker spots, Watkins said. As for replacing Davis, junior-to-be Kai Callins will likely be the Bluejays' primary ball carrier.
In Guthrie's state championship game win over Lawton MacArthur, Callins rushed for two 40-plus yard touchdowns and returned an interception 56 yards for a score.
“The biggest thing for Kai will be getting in good enough shape to be on the field as much as he'll need to be,” Watkins said. “They'll be games when we need him to carry the ball 18-25 times.”
By Jason Kersey
IRWINS READY TO BREAK OUT?
If you're looking for a player who could explode up the recruiting lists, Mustang's Cory Irwins is someone to keep an eye on.
Spring will be valuable for him, because colleges are intrigued by his size at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, with great speed and athleticism.
However, injuries limited him as a sophomore, and took him out for all but two games as a junior, so showing that he's healthy this spring will pay dividends and set him up for summer camps.
Irwins is dangerous as a running back, where he'll likely see a lot of time for the Broncos in the fall, but he could be scary good at linebacker, which is the position where most colleges will likely project him.
By Scott Wright
ALONE ON A HILL
The running game has been a big part of Hennessey's back-to-back championships, with Levi Hill and Ivan Moreno pairing up as one of the top running back duos around.
But Moreno has graduated, so the load falls on Hill to lift the offense. The Eagles also graduated quarterback Trey Leu from an offense that will have a different feel without former head coach Shannon Watford, now at Purcell.
Over the last two season, Hill has rushed for a combined 2,637 yards and 35 touchdowns on 355 carries, an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Hill also had 85 tackles and four sacks as a junior.
Hill has a busy summer ahead, with invitations to the national trials for the under-19 USA Football team, with the chance to earn a spot on the 2013 national team, and to the Schuman's National Underclassmen Combine.
By Scott Wright
Tramayne Wauaudooah and R.J. Sink have the unenviable task of replacing a legend in the Anadarko backfield.
Gone is Sheldon Wilson, The Oklahoman's 2011 All-State Offensive Player of the Year who rushed for 3,335 yards, scored 64 total touchdowns and led the Warriors to their first-ever football state title.
“There's only one Sheldon,” said Anadarko coach Kent Jackson. “He doesn't come around very often, but we think both of those guys can be really good.”
But it goes beyond just Wilson. The Warriors have to replace a staggering 17 starters from last year's team.
But Jackson notes that these players have seen significant action the last two years, when the starters were pulled at halftime of many blowouts.
“We'll have a lot of new faces, but these guys have got to play a lot, too,” Jackson said. “Those guys got in and got reps, and they got to practice against the state champions.”
Jackson said without Wilson, who was always a home run threat, his offense might be more balanced.
“Without that threat, we're going to have to be more consistent,” Jackson said. “That's what we'll be working on in the spring.”
By Jason Kersey