Panthers begin new era in spring training

Posted Monday, Jun. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Every era has a conclusion. When Colleyville Heritage said good-bye to national quarterback prospect Cody Thomas, coach Mike Fuller and his staff still had work to do in preparing the next signal caller.

When the Panthers closed their 2013 spring season this past Thursday, Griffin Pickler safely emerged as the starter. A couple of underclassmen could not overtake him. But that doesn’t mean Pickler is done working.

“He’s going to be our starter going into the fall [workouts],” Fuller said. “He’s going to have to keep working on his consistency. But we didn’t expect him to be polished anyway at this part.

“Griffin has to work every day. He’s got to think reads and working with his receivers. It’s like being a good golfer. If you’re going to be great, you have to play every day and be ready to work on every aspect.”

The Panthers are going to be pressed to duplicate the 10-2 season in 2012. They return only four starters on offense and three on defense. Plus, this group is pretty young. There are expected to be only 25 seniors on the fall roster. The 2012 squad had 46.

“We’ll compete for a playoff spot,” Fuller said. “We’re not lowering expectations. We’re going to fight to get there. We may or may not come out of the gate looking like well-oiled machine.”

The offense

You could argue that losing wide receiver Kaelin Deboskie was a bigger blow than Thomas, because everybody knew Thomas was done after 2012. Deboskie will spend his final year back in his home in the greater Phoenix area.

Senior-to-be Brett Bofinger has the speed to play the inside position Deboskie held. The coaches moved him from the outside. Ryan Phillippe and Jacob Sisk should see some time there this year in addition to their secondary duties.

The running game should be interesting, as junior-to-be Demarco Corbin (379 rushing yards) is through his shoulder injuries. He did not participate in spring contact drills. At 6-0, 205, he could be the best running back to come through Fuller’s eight seasons.

“He’s a strong kid, has good hands and he’s smart,” Fuller said. “A running back in our offense is as valuable as our quarterback because he has so much to learn. We need to rely on the running back heavily this year. He’s carrying a big load.”

The offensive line has questions, as Nick Walters and Connor McAnally have knee injuries. It’s unknown if either will be available at the start of the season. But Awais Charaniya is a lock at center.

The defense

Jason Williams is only going to be a junior, but he is a natural at the nose guard. Dwight Squire is the candidate to be the speed rushing defensive end. Isaac Lee will anchor the other side.

Depth will be tested with this group, especially at linebacker. Fuller believes he has a solid front line in the likes of Jared Crouch and Colton Nied. Both could rotate between linebacker and safety on a down and distance basis. Look for Daniel Marcus to be in the mix.

“We’ve got to create some depth,” Fuller said. “With the low number of seniors, this is not the typical path. We have some good players, who are just going to have to keep working to help themselves get ready for the next level.”

Fuller will have to wait until August to determine his place-kicker and punter.

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