With 14 starters returning from a Taylor Mustang team that went to the state semifinal last year, the expectation for 2020 is at least a repeat of that run according to head coach Chad Simmons, but …
With 14 starters returning from a Taylor Mustang team that went to the state semifinal last year, the expectation for 2020 is at least a repeat of that run according to head coach Chad Simmons, but not without putting in the work first.
“I think the success we had with the run to the semifinals last year gave them a lot of confidence and raised expectations,” Simmons said. “The thing you’ve got to guard against there is just because you did it the year before doesn't mean there's anything that's automatic and I don't think they have had the indication of kids thinking that way.”
Through the stops and starts of summer conditioning programs, Simmons and the Mustangs finally hit the practice field at the beginning of this month to start preparations for what is hopefully another long season.
“At the beginning, we say one of the goals we have is to play in December. This year, it just so happens we have our last district game in December and it’s against the team (Katy) that's won the district championship every year since 2008 when we beat them at Cinco,” said Simmons, a former defensive coordinator for the Cinco Ranch Cougars. “We want that to be for the district championship. And then we want to play in December from what we've always said in the past and now we look at the way the schedule is, we want to be in a bowl game in January, as crazy as that sounds.”
The Mustangs will look to do just that behind their beasts in the trenches with key returners coming back on both sides of the ball although he views the offensive line corps as the best he’s ever been around.
Between two Division-I recruits in Hayden Conner and Bryce Foster – who were also both named to “Dave Campbell’s” Super Team offensive line – returning starter Abraham Ozekie and newcomers Nolan Hay and Dawson Seago, Simmons says the O-line is much more athletic than last year’s.
They’ll provide the protection for returners at quarterback and running back in Jake Hinzen and Casey Shorter who bring vital experience to the offense.
“A returner at quarterback, that's invaluable with that experience,” Simmons said. “Casey had roughly 1,500 yards last year back at running back. I think we've got a really good offensive scheme that balances run and pass, we do some things that I think really make it difficult to defend.”
On the other side of the ball, both of the Daniels twins, Marcus and Jordan, return to anchor the defensive ends outside of Jake Cortez and EJ Bronson on the inside.
“Cortez is a defensive tackle that played quite a bit last year and Bronson is a kid who has really come on, he got big like 6' 5", right at 300 pounds, a defensive tackle that runs pretty well and he may end up being a Division-I guy,” Simmons said.
Marcus Daniels was already a starting member of the defense while his brother Jordan was a spot-player at wide receiver and Simmons said due to some injuries, Jordan was asked to switch to the other side of the ball and play opposite his twin.
“Last year, right about the time we started the playoffs, (Jordan) came in and did a great job,” the coach said. “It’s almost like he was getting telepathy from his brother on the techniques, but he caught on quick. A lot of that stuff, once they work it, it becomes natural for them but defensive-line play is not really the most natural thing for kids to do. You really have to work it if you want them to have good technique and he just caught on immediately.”
Returners in the defensive secondary include Hollis Robinson, Cam Hennon and Cecil Ivey II as well as Trevor Woods who will command the strong safety position.
“He's committed to Colorado and he's just one of the best football players I have ever been around,” Simmons said of Woods. “He's 6' 2", about 205 pounds now and still can run real well, he's the mainstay in the secondary.”
Simmons said he is pleased with the bond created between his coaching team and players that allows growth and progress throughout the Mustang lineup.
“We have an outstanding staff of guys that coach kids hard but also have good relationships with them and don't make things where correcting them is anything personal,” Simmons said. “They have really bought into preparation, not only how important that is but it's all those little things that nobody – unless you're behind the scenes – really even knows about going into a ball game because you get in the ball game and if you prepare, that'll show up, and if you didn't, that's going to show up too.”