Several area high school football programs have a new look this spring.
And it's not just the absence of the senior class.
New head coaches are taking over at Fort Worth Arlington Heights, Fort Worth Eastern Hills, Burleson and Saginaw Chisholm Trail.
New Arlington Heights coach Todd Whitten, a former coordinator and head coach on the collegiate level, succeeds Ged Kates, who left Heights for Richland.
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"This is a really good job, and the team has won a lot of games in the past several years," said Whitten, who was the offensive coordinator at Lamar University last year and was head coach at Sam Houston State (2005-2009) and Tarleton State (1996, 2000-2004). "This is a really good area for me and my family to live. It brings me and my wife closer to our families." Whitten is a Dallas native.
Instead of a typical spring schedule with football practices and a spring game, the Heights players are working on strength and conditioning. In his three weeks on the job, Whitten has been impressed with his new team.
"The guys are working hard," Whitten said. "I've gotten to know the kids. During the athletic period, we get to see them run. The biggest thing for me right now is to get a feel for these kids, who will fit best at each position. I spend the rest of my time looking at film from last year. It's been a good transition."
The Yellow Jackets will start two-a-day practices Aug. 6.
Heights won't be the only team waiting until late summer to begin official practices with a new coach.
New Eastern Hills coach Tracy Simien, a former TCU standout and an NFL linebacker in the 1990s, won't even be on campus until July.
At Chisholm Trail, a brand new campus, football coach and head boys athletic coordinator Randall Hugg has been too busy to focus on football.
"I'm by myself, and I've been hiring coaches," said Hugg, who was a quarterback coach at Highland Park. "Counting me, we have 25 new coaches and trainers across all boys and girls sports at the school. That's been the majority of my time, trying to fill the first wave of staff."
Chisholm Trail will piece together a football team with students from two high-school and five middle-school Saginaw campuses. Hugg faces a daunting task to prepare a roster of freshmen and sophomores to play a varsity schedule.
A few of Chisholm Trail's new coaches have led afternoon conditioning drills for the players able to attend at different campuses. This summer, football players will participate in a strength program and attend a camp.
"This summer will be very important," Hugg said. "That will be the first thing the kids do together. Coming from that many different schools, we need to try to build team chemistry as fast as we can. I don't care if we sit in the same room and eat purple popsicles and look at each other. Just having everyone in the same room at the same time to build team unity."
The transition at Burleson has been smooth, as former Elk offensive coordinator Gary McElroy moved up to take over as head coach.
"I have experience as an athletic director and head coach, so it's been fine," McElroy said. "The players already understand the intensity and speed at which we want to get things accomplished and the tempo of practice."
McElroy has hired three assistants, including defensive coordinator Jeff Berry from Keller, and is interviewing for three more positions.
"They are local enough that they can get here in the afternoons and implement their defensive system," he said.
Burleson started practices this week and will play a spring scrimmage on May 25.
"We have some internal competition on the offensive line and at the linebacker spot. We want to see some kids battle it out, step up and take charge," McElroy said. "We want to have a fairly solid idea of our 1s and 2s coming out of spring ball."
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760