GATESVILLE – Last year, experience surrounded Derrick Waters. Now he stands alone.
After Gatesville rode a class of 28 seniors to the program’s second best season in school history in 2012, the Hornets find themselves with numerous new faces on its roster. Many of the household names are gone, replaced by inexperienced newcomers, and perhaps no unit is affected more than the offensive line, where center Waters resides as the lone returning starter.
Despite spending much of his time bringing his fellow linemen up to speed on fundamentals of the team and intricacies of plays, Waters loves being in a position to assist.
“Honestly, it feels pretty good to teach somebody and help them learn new things,” the senior said. “I like it, but it takes some time. Some of them aren’t too good with the snap count, and they’ll jump. Some need help with their steps.”
Nevertheless, Waters, who delivered every snap for the Hornets’ high-scoring offense last year, is the ideal person to help mold the group, according to Gatesville head coach Kyle Cooper.
“The experience he got last year, I really believe it will go a long way in helping these guys this year,” Cooper said. “He’s going to just bring them right along. He’s a veteran. He’s been there and done that, and he did it with some pretty good football players.”
Waters is one of only two returning starters on Gatesville’s offense, joining last season’s District 8-3A offensive MVP Jake Kee, who rushed for 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns on 199 carries as a junior.
Although the turnover is the most significant of Cooper’s career, he is excited about his two returning starters and has big expectations for the new additions.
“Everything starts and ends with Jake Kee and Derrick Waters on the offensive side of the ball,” Cooper said of the upcoming season.
“If you’ve only got two positions (coming back), running back and center are two pretty good ones.
“The cupboard is not bare, and that is what is exciting. We don’t have blanks. Do we have question marks? Yes, but we’ve got kids that I feel like can step up and take those spots.”
Three players with no varsity experience and a transfer will flank Waters on the offensive line.
Robert Burden is expected to start at left guard, while left tackle Nich Moler, right guard Jordan Westbrook and right tackle Tylor Perkins round out the unit.
“We’re a new team, but you’ve got to learn to work together just like any team,” Waters said.
Gatesville is also currently searching for a quarterback to replace last year’s district MVP Cole Edmiston, who accounted for 4,108 total yards and 54 touchdowns while leading the Hornets on an undefeated run through the regular season before joining Baylor as a preferred walk-on.
Junior quarterback Collin Hallgarth and sophomore Jeff Speer are each attempting to win the vacated spot.
“The best thing about having a young team is that there are a lot of spots open,” Cooper said. “It creates competition, and it creates a great atmosphere within the practice because guys are getting after it to earn a spot.”
One person who does not have to concern himself with competition for a position, though, is Waters.
“He’s just a no-nonsense guy, who played last year at about 175 pounds,” Cooper said. “He’s put on about 20 pounds this year. He really is just a competitor. I’m proud of him and the role he has taken on. As a coach, he’s the guy you want at center.”