By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Shoemaker's leading receiver, M.J. Porter, earned an all-state honorable mention in December.
Derrick Mays signed a national letter of intent for Texas Tech University in February.
Neither are in spring camp.
For that matter, 10 of last year's offensive starters are not in camp.
"Our only returning starter on offense is our quarterback, Jameill Showers," said Shoemaker coach Ken Gray. "We lost our offensive line, our receivers and our running back. We've got to replace the entire offense."
Showers, who verbally committed to Texas A&M after he played his first 10 varsity games, threw 22 touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards. In the regular season alone, Porter and Mays combined for 14 touchdown receptions and more than 1,400 receiving yards for an offense that averaged nearly 400 yards a game.
"It's not any pressure. It's what we do," said sophomore receiver Vincent Fuller. "When good players leave, you step up and replace them."
You do not have to remind Fuller, Andre Franklin and Latirius Jones what the Grey Wolves accomplished last season.
They were there.
They were there on the sidelines watching Shoemaker's first playoff appearance – and loss – in school history.
They made the same walk up and down the tunnel before the game, at halftime and after the game. As junior varsity call-ups, though, they did not play.
"There was a lot of crying and disappointment," Fuller said. "We know we should've won that (playoff) game. We showed up and came out not smelling like roses. That made us hungry."
So, hungry and with the taste of that 29-18 playoff loss to Tyler John Tyler still in their mouths, the Grey Wolves set out, from the beginning, again.
There's nothing new about the offense or the season goals, but there is an added pressure, for this year's team and especially the seniors-to-be, to make a return trip to the postseason.
"First of all, we have to get to the playoffs. We feel that won't be a problem," Jones said. "There is a little bit (of pressure). The seniors (this year) were the first set of seniors to make it to the playoffs. Coach Gray told us how the bar has been set. We're expected to be the ones to get it higher."
Franklin described the first practices of spring football as being a "little shaky" but it is only the beginning.
"I know that we'll get back to the playoffs this year," the junior added. "It feels good. I'm ready for anything ... not really nervous. I've got to catch the ball and score and be coachable."
Franklin, Fuller and Jones and the other JV call-ups may not have had an opportunity to actually play in the playoff game, but with 10 vacancies in the starting line-up, some will play key roles this season and their established chemistry figures to play something of a role as well.
"I've played with Jameill before. Last year was my first year not playing with him," Franklin said. "The offensive line we had on JV (last year) was pretty good. Hopefully they can step up for Jameill and give him some time to get the ball off and block for our running backs."
Added Jones, who will be a senior next year, "We know how everybody plays ... now we have an opportunity to go past what we could (on JV)," said Jones, a junior. "It's not like we're experiencing anything new."
What will be new, though, are the faces. Along with Jones, Franklin and Fuller, Alonzo Miles, Kelvin Harper and Marcus Hinton are also expected to see playing time at receiver this season.
"They want us to replace Derrick and M.J. I'm not looking to replace anybody," Jones said. "I'm looking to make a name for myself ... so people will try to replace me."
Contact Kevin Posival at email@example.com or (254) 501-7562.