As spring practice kicks off, Cavs looking to replenish talent
Spring football practice opens Monday at Lake Travis, and Cavalier fans and coaches alike can’t wait to get their first look at the 2015 Cavaliers.
“I think we have a talented team,” head coach Hank Carter said Monday. “Offensively, we have a chance to be one of the best offenses we’ve had here in a long time. Defensively, we’ve got to figure some things out in the spring, personnel-wise to get guys in the right spots.”
Over the next four weeks, which will include 15 practices and a spring game that highlights the annual Spring Jamboree, the Cavaliers hope to form the foundation of what Carter thinks can become the next great Lake Travis team.
“Our mantra for next season is going to be ‘leave a legacy,’” Carter said, “so that’s what we’re charging them with. We want to get back to playing football the way we know we can.”
For the first time since the start of the 2007 season, no Lake Travis player has been in the program during a state championship season.
“Our sophomore and junior classes, they are hungry,” Carter said. “They are tired of hearing about what it used to be like. They are ready to put a star of their own [on the helmet].”
Before they can leave that legacy, the Cavaliers must address several key points this spring:
Getting to know you
After successfully talking longtime friend and defensive coordinator Randall Edwards out of retirement for the past few years, Carter finally had to let E-Dog go. Edwards came with Carter to Lake Travis from Stephenville in 2008 and has guided the Cavalier defense since, serving as coordinator since 2010.
“I tried to talk him out of it,” Carter said. “I feel like I talked him out of it five years in a row.”
Edwards’ departure is but one of the changes Lake Travis’ defensive staff has undergone this spring. Cornerbacks coach Brady Bond left to become defensive coordinator at L.D. Bell.
Ryan Luedecke slides from safeties coach into Edwards’ roles of coordinator and linebackers coach. Robert Rayos moves from defensive tackles to safeties. Antonio Wylie and Omar Ochoa join the varsity staff from the freshman staff, where they will coach cornerbacks and defensive tackles, respectively. Only defensive ends coach Kevin Halfmann returns on the defensive staff.
“We lost a lot of players and we’re having some coaching changes,” Carter said. “The defensive staff and personnel are doing a lot of learning at this time of year.”
Charlie’s in charge
Lake Travis fans got a sneak peak of the 2015 offense during the first three games of 2014, when Charlie Brewer started at quarterback with Dominic De Lira suspended. In those three starts, the sophomore passed for nearly 900 yards with 8 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. With his dress rehearsal behind him, Brewer’s ready for his turn behind center, hoping to follow in his brother Michael’s championship footsteps.
“Charlie’s coming back and we’re looking forward to big things out of him,” Carter said. “The experience he got his sophomore year has already given him a lot of confidence heading into spring.”
Almost all of Lake Travis’ skill players return. True, quarterback De Lira and receivers Colton Bailey and Grant Foster graduate, but workhorse running back Abe Willows returns for his senior season, stronger and faster according to Carter, and a host of juniors who started or saw extensive playing time including receivers Cade Green, Maleek Barkley and Mac Humble and H-back Cade Brewer all return. And there will be plenty of talented depth behind them as well, Carter said.
“One of the things I want to see this spring is our offense really dominate,” Carter said. “When I have my defensive coaching hat on, I’m hoping that I’m just miserable for a while. That means the offense is playing really good.”
If that happens, Carter wants his young-and-under-construction defense answer the challenge.
“I want there to be a day where the offense has had a great day and the defense is mad that the offense got the better of them,” he said. “And then I want to see the defense come back the next day and flip that. That’s how you get better.”
Immovable forces (defensive line)
The Cavaliers may have one of the better defensive fronts in the state despite losing three-year starter Feno Pearson.
“I feel like we have five or six pretty accomplished guys to play the front four spots,” Carter said. “We should be pretty dominant there. If we play at our potential, we should be pretty tough to deal with up there.”
Senior Tevin Paul returns to anchor the line along with Jayden Hutchings, Corbin Pearce, Garrett Womack and Sammy Ochoa, who emerged as a dominating player last season as a sophomore splitting time between linebacker and defensive tackle. This year, Carter said, Ochoa will move out to a defensive end spot opposite Womack.
Got their backs (revamped and younger LB/DBs)
The bulk of Lake Travis’ questions come in the linebackers and defensive backs. The Cavaliers must replace both starting linebackers – Jason York and John Brewer – as well as rover James Bailey, safety Chris Roller and corner/receiver Grant Foster. Austin Hiller figures to slide into Roller’s spot and Robert-Lee Rayos figures to man the other safety position. Both will be juniors.
“If those two high safeties click and play at a high level, that helps with everything,” Carter said. “In 2011 that was Dane Balasz and Zach Streuling. After that season, whenever we talked with coaches who saw our video, they wanted to talk about our safety play. We need to figure that out. Right now it’s Hiller and Rayos. We need those positions to be productive.”
Tanner Bush returns for his senior season – his third as a starter – at one corner position. Spring will decide which combination of young players get the first crack at starting roles come August.
The Cavaliers figure to have a punishing running game led by Willows, but Carter wants the Cavaliers to get more out of the quick passing game. He longs for the days of 2010 and 2011, when the quarterback would zip a screen pass to a running back, who’d use a block and break off a big gain.
“Our screen game has been missing from our offense,” Carter said. “The quick passes that Andy Erickson and Colin Lagasse would make into explosive plays gaining huge hunks of yards. That hasn’t been there, at least not to the same extend it was, and I think a big part of that is the way we block out on the edge. I want to see our skill players play with a nasty side.”
Practices begin Monday. The Cavaliers will not practice on Wednesdays. The spring games take place on May 22 as part of the spring jamboree.