Opportunity and transition lined up at the right time for the Colleyville Heritage football program.
In May, Lake Dallas assistant Mitch Sanders approached Panthers head coach Joe Willis about an opportunity to be a part of his staff. The only problem was that there was no teaching position open in Sanders’ field. That changed when another teacher left the high school.
A phone call meant the job was Sanders’. Approved by the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD school board earlier this month, the veteran coach became part of Willis’ staff. It’s a two-for-one, because rising sophomore Drew Sanders (6-4, 215) will also be a part of the varsity roster.
Mitch Sanders becomes the assistant head coach of the offense and will be the co-offensive coordinator for the passing game. He replaces Clark Harrell, who left to take a similar position at Sealy. Jarvis Johnson will be the other co-offensive coordinator, in charge of the running game.
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“I really think this is going to be a good fit,” Willis said. “He was a head coach in Oregon for about 13 years, so he understands what it takes to run a program. He was at some larger schools. He’s been around the University of Oregon strength and conditioning program [under Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich], so there is some cutting-edge stuff he can offer.”
I know some schools see him as that dual-threat quarterback. Some see him as a tight end. Others see him as a linebacker. He’s a very physical player.
Colleyville Heritage football coach Joe Willis on move-in Drew Sanders
Drew Sanders brings versatility to the lineup. Don’t expect him to challenge Jagger LaRoe and Landry French for the starting quarterback position. That competition remains between those two. Once Colleyville Heritage begins fall camp on Aug. 14, Willis will know more. But Sanders can play quarterback, outside linebacker and tight end.
In fact, that’s how he’s being recruited. Sanders already holds offers from Oklahoma, Baylor, Georgia, TCU, Houston, SMU and Tulsa.
“There is some dual-threat as a quarterback there, so I could see him doing things like we’re going to do with Caleb Murphy, who can run our wildcat, play safety and also be a running back,” Willis said. “I know some schools see him as that dual-threat quarterback. Some see him as a tight end. Others see him as a linebacker. He’s a very physical player.”
In split time in 2016, Sanders threw for 392 yards with a couple of touchdowns against three interceptions. Sanders was also the Falcons’ leading rusher with 438 yards and eight scores. Defensively, Sanders recorded 22 tackles and was used occasionally on kickoff returns.
The program also added another move-in from Virginia in Blake Elliott. Willis said he sees Elliott (5-10, 180) more as a safety. However, there’s going to be an adjustment period. Elliott has been focused on basketball over the last couple of years.
Willis also said strength and conditioning summer course has participation numbers are close to where they were when he was at Cedar Park. There are about 250 players in the program, about 150 from high school and 100 from middle school.
“We’re happy with the way things are looking with that,” Willis said. “The high school numbers are at about 90 percent. It just continues to be a process for that.”