JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — The Llano High School football team is enjoying a productive and sound first week of fall training camp, according to head coach Craig Slaughter.
The Yellow Jackets began the camp Aug. 3.
“It’s going really well,” he said. “I’m really pleased with where we are at right now. We’re getting them heat-ready as much as we can. They have more confidence each day. We’re making progress.”
And the coach has several reasons for his optimism.
First, the linemen look great, he said, noting they set the tone for their skill-position teammates.
“Our offensive line has the chance to be a really solid group,” he said. “We’re always excited generally by the smooth kids on that side of the ball. Our offensive line is going to give us a big chance.”
Being able to run block and pass protect gives the Jackets more options on calling different plays. In addition, it also means he believes the linemen will have fewer mental errors such as false starts. By not committing mental errors that result in penalties, it allows the offense to remain on schedule instead of being behind the chains. It also means the defense is limited on what kind of coverage it can call and will take fewer chances on second down.
“They don’t have a chance to get going and make things happen. I think it makes (all the Jackets) around them look better,” Slaughter said. “It takes away the chaos, the busted plays. I think they’re sharp and also physical.”
The defensive line also is performing well, he said. Its ability to contain the line of scrimmage will give the linebackers and secondary a chance to mix up blitzes and coverages to confuse the quarterback, he added.
“They’re making stops without sending (the other groups),” he said. “You want a vocal presence, a business-like approach. The makeup of the group has been solid. If they’re not excited now, I think you’re in trouble.”
Quarterback Wyatt Casey is relishing the opportunity to start. Casey spent the 2014 season as the backup, which allowed him to work on several parts of his game.
“Wyatt has been just great,” Slaughter said. “He has such a different confidence level coming in. He’s looking really good.”
The quarterback showed that during 7-on-7 games in May and June and in the way he approached the summer strength-and-conditioning program, the coach said. Casey led by example and moved his teammates to different spots on the field as they worked on pass plays on their own.
“His leadership is off the charts,” Slaughter said. “He’s throwing the ball great. We’ll see how good we can protect him, but he’s doing everything we hoped.”
The program had 94 players in grades 9-12 come out for the sport, which is about what Llano averages.
One of the questions that remain offensively is finding more playmakers. Slaughter noted that when Llano advanced to the playoffs in 2013, the team had a quarterback who could extend plays in Layton Rabb, a running back who was difficult to tackle in Carter Tatsch, and a possession receiver in Isaac Hutto.
“Somebody who craves footballs,” the coach said.
The Jackets have plenty of athletes who could fill those roles. Now it’s a matter of someone making the most of his opportunities, he said.
“We need kids to make plays on Friday nights. We have some kids who are stepping up,” he said. “I’m very excited about where we’re headed.”