The Killeen Kangaroos return a two-year starting quarterback, the district’s leading rusher and a hungry receiver anxious to prove his mettle.
So this spring, the Roos are not reinventing the wheel — only the line.
“Normally, in the past, we’ve had a center or a guard or a tackle coming back. But this year, it’s completely new,” Killeen head coach Sam Jones. “The good thing about that is next year we won’t have the same problem ... because we’ve got some sophomores on there, some juniors on there. ...You’re talking about kids that are going to be able to stay there a while.”
The Roos don’t return a single starter on the offensive line — sophomore T’Mond Johnson is only member of the group that saw any varsity playing time last season — but quarterback Garrett Gaskamp, running back Daniel McCants and receiver Devyn Williams, for all they’ve accomplished in their three years on varsity, earned nothing until they, too, were going through spring drills as an unproven commodity.
“You can’t take that (varsity experience) away from the kids once you play varsity and know the speed of the game,” Jones said, “that’s my concern with the offensive line until we get in there the first two or three ballgames. I think if they can hold their own, I think you’ll see great, great strides from there.”
Killeen’s annual Maroon-White spring game is next Friday at 7 p.m. at Leo Buckley Stadium.
Gaskamp, who will be starting as the Roos’ quarterback for the third straight season in the fall, threw for 1,389 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, helping to lead Killeen to its fifth straight playoff appearance and first in 5A since 2001.
McCants led the district with 1,796 yards rushing during the regular season and added his ninth 100-yard game of the year in the playoffs, giving him 1,921 yards — a school single-season rushing record — and 20 touchdowns on just 221 carries.
And Williams was the Roos’ second-leading receiver last year (28-384, TD), his second as a starter.
“They’ve all stepped forward in the spring. Catching the ball for Devyn, Gaskamp throwing and running and, of course, McCants running. They’re stepping up,” Jones said. “They know they’re (going to be) seniors and this is their last year.”
In addition to rebuilding the offensive line, the Roos are looking to replace their kicker/punter and shoring up their defense that was ranked sixth in the eight-team District 8-5A. The Roos must replace Phatanasin Sandod, who converted 40 PATs and averaged nearly 37 yards a punt last year.
Defensively, Jones said, the Roos, who gave up nearly 396 yards a game and 270 rushing yards a game, will go with three down linemen and four linebackers. To utilize his athletes, Jones moved some who played defensive line last year to linebacker, including District 8-5A defensive newcomer of the year Peyton Searcy.
“Our philosophy hasn’t changed on defense, we’re still going to be able to hit and run, fly to the football; we may do it with four linebackers instead of four down linemen,” Jones said. “I still believe we’re going to be flexible enough to go to our 4-2-5, because that’s our bread and butter, but it looks like our kids are kind of dictating (what we do) — if you don’t have many linemen and you’ve got more linebacker-type kids, why not put them on the field.”