EDMOND — Deer Creek coach Grant Gower jokes that Caden Sander likely gets the team water at halftime.
For the soon-to-be senior who last season did everything but consistently play offense, that may be the only thing he doesn't do in the future for the team.
With the loss of 27 players to graduation, Sander has been named the starting quarterback for next season, replacing the graduated Joel Blumenthal and expanding his versatility and leadership role with the Antlers.
Sander will also remain at free safety — where he started the past two seasons — and possibly as the holder, kick returner and punt returner.
“I guess it kind of helps in the whole leadership role because you're in command of the whole offense now,” Sander said. “I've kind of had that leadership role on the defense behind Austin Loomis last year.
“Nothing I was really hoping for, but I am just going to try to step in and do the best I can and get us to the state championship.”
Blumenthal threw for 2,456 yards and 32 touchdowns last season, helping Deer Creek win the District 5A-2 title and advance to the Class 5A quarterfinals.
Sander, meanwhile, threw just four passes last season — completing three — as the backup but recorded 79 tackles and seven interceptions.
And in the final week of spring practice, Sander is already receiving glowing reviews from his teammates.
“I honestly think Caden's better than Joel,” said running back Alec James, who also returns after scoring 14 total TDs last season. “I think he's a little tougher and a little faster.
“Him playing free safety for us last year did a lot, so hopefully him at quarterback can do some, too.”
Sander has spent the spring working on his release point along with adjusting to becoming the team leader, where it's already evident he has embraced it by his brief but encouraging comments to teammates during practices.
“He is one of the greatest leaders of anybody I've ever been around here,” Gower said. “Our team just gravitates to him, they follow him.”
Now, it's just a matter of trying to find time for him to take a break at some point during the game.
Sander returned three punts for touchdowns last season, and Gower still hasn't decided if he will put his quarterback in those situations. Sander will, however, try to talk his way onto the field for every play.
“From my personal view, I want to contribute as much as I can,” he said. “But I understand I've got to rest sometimes, but I hope I can stay on the field as much as I can.”