Countdown to kickoff: Burleson Elks

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Burleson

District 8-5A

Last season: 6-5 (5-2 District 8-4A)

Key players: QB Preston Paden (5-11, 180), DE Kenneth Mann (6-5, 260), NT John Carter (5-10, 215), MLB Blaine McRay (5-11, 190), RB Coby Slaughter (6-0, 210), WR/RB Taylor Bissell (5-9, 175), WR Drew Brunken (6-3, 185).

The big picture: Twelve months ago, Burleson was in complete rebuild mode, coming off an 0-10 season in 2012. But the Elks did more than not go winless last year; they made the playoffs, finishing fourth in what proved to be a competitive District 8-4A. This year, Burleson will be vying for one of those four playoff spots again in a district that went largely unchanged by February’s realignment besides the addition of defending state champion Aledo. On offense, the Elks graduated quarterback Isaiah Hall, a Houston Baptist signee who will be replaced by Preston Paden. The junior is a bit smaller than Hall, but Paden saw time in a utility role as a sophomore. Burleson coach Gary McElroy didn’t dismiss the loss of Hall, but he and his staff are certain Paden will produce. “I wish I had Isaiah for another year, because he’s a good kid and a good player, but we’re not hurting at the QB position,” McElroy said. “Preston is a very dynamic player and very athletic.” Defensively, the Elks will be anchored by Oklahoma commit Kenneth Mann, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior defensive end. Linebacker Blaine McRay, like Mann, is expected to start for the third straight year. “I’m just trying to get faster for the season,” Mann said. “I’ve been gaining a lot of weight, but mostly muscle, but I want more speed, because I feel like I’ll have to chase down more tackles this year.”

Quotable: “Last year [for QB Preston Paden], it was get in there and make plays. You don’t have to worry about being that guy. Now, he’s the leader of the offense. The team is going to go the way the quarterback goes. But he’s been running the offense since he was in eighth grade, when I came here. Our offense is structured in a way that it shapes the personnel, not vice versa.” — coach Gary McElroy

The recruiting process “definitely sped up at the end. I didn’t think I was that under the radar. The teams that looked enough into me, knew that I’d be somebody that they wanted. Most of the other schools that didn’t offer me, didn’t look into me enough.” — DE Kenneth Mann, who committed to Oklahoma last month

Notable: Burleson graduated a large chunk of its 2013 offensive production, including Hall, who threw for 19 touchdowns and 1,741 yards and rushed for a team-high 903 yards and 11 touchdowns. Also gone from a year ago: RB Ayinde Alaajiy (515 yards, 8 TDs) and WR Austin Murrell (838 yards, 13 TDs). Paden, though, was Burleson’s second-best rusher with 567 yards and eight touchdowns.

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