Theres a new look to Sean Crocker, a veteran Wake County high school football coach, as he gets settled into his new digs at Panther Creek.
After accepting the job, leaving Tri-Nine Conference foe Middle Creek after five seasons, Crockers had to be more hands-on and had to devote more time to planning and teaching players who arent familiar with his way of doing things.
The Catamounts new coach is rejuvenated by the changes.
It cant help but get the juices flowing again, Crocker said. I worked hard at Middle Creek to get things like I wanted it. I had everything kind of set up. It took about three years to get things tailored to the way I wanted it and we had the last two years things kind of on cruise control. Everyone knew where to go and knew what to do.
Crocker didnt need much of an introduction to the Panther Creek players.
After all, it was Middle Creek that knocked the Catamounts out of the first round of the 2011 4AA playoffs, avenging a regular-season Panther Creek victory. Crockers teams won at least a share of three conference titles, and went 5-1 against Panther Creek.
Talent isnt a problem for the Catamounts, who are 26-13 over the last three seasons, but experience might be.
Only five or six seniors are expected to start. Almost every position on the team is up-for-grabs, including who will take the snaps out of Crockers trademark spread offense.
Weve got a lot of competition going on, said Crocker, a UNC-Chapel Hill safety who was drafted as a defensive back by the the NFL's Buffalo Bills in 1994. You have guys fighting for a spot, not only for this year but to get a foothold for a spot next year.
Though Crockers teams were known for passing, the strength of this years unit will be its rushing offense.
The Catamounts top returning playmaker is senior David Mayaka, who ran for 1,492 yards and 17 touchdowns behind a strong offensive line that returns three starters in Mike Sutton (300 pounds), Chris Hartsfield (310 pounds) and James Northington.
Javontay Rhodes, a junior, will also get carries as will the teams top two-way player Dorrel McClain.
Were going to see if those guys can run behind that, Theres no question that the strength of our offense is our offensive line. Thats where most of the experience on the team is.
McClain, a junior, had 403 yards rushing mostly out of a wildcat formation plus 26 tackles and four interceptions.
I can assure you, youll see more of him in the offense than you saw last year, Crocker said.
McClain is also in the mix at quarterback, along with senior Vitu Chilongo and two rising players from the junior varsity.
Former Northern Durham head coach Anthony Sullivan takes over as defensive coordinator, where it may take a few games for his many newcomers to get settled.
We do have some really good talent over there, they just dont have a lot of varsity experience. It may take a couple of weeks for guys to get comfortable and up to game speed, which is unfortunate because we open with Leesville. Only three starters return, but linebacker figures to be the one unit ahead of the rest, while the interior line needs the quickest fix.
Crockers track record at a conference rival has helped grab his teams attention.
I think everybody jumped on board pretty fast, Crocker said. Its been a pretty smooth transition and I probably couldnt ask for it to go any better.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps