STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
LLANO — A pleasure. That’s how Llano High School head football coach Matt Green described the first week of fall training camp.
He has many reasons to be excited about what he’s seen.
Top of the list is the number of players — 98 representing grades 9-12 — who came out for the sport.
Second is the athletes’ retention of the playbook, especially on offense. Part of that can be attributed to a trio of seniors: quarterback Cade Fly, running back Mason Brooks, and wide receiver Brooks Keele, who are all returning starters.
It makes it easier for a coaching staff when kids aren’t learning the plays from scratch.
While Green has been happy with the Yellow Jackets play, he hasn’t been surprised. What has caught his eye and has coaches talking is the receiving corps, which has speed, smarts, and great hands. Green attributes the improvement in that position to receivers playing throughout the summer and building rapport with Fly.
“I think the difference is we have more legitimate receivers running routes and catching balls,” the coach said. “It’s important to have that depth.”
The number of receivers gives Fly added weapons and gives the coaches the option of moving them to slot receiver or wide receiver. Fly’s accuracy in getting them the ball in stride, whether that’s a short throw for yards after catch or a deep ball to stretch the defense, caused Green to call that “some fun stuff.”
Add in Brooks and a solid a stable of running backs, and the Yellow Jackets look to give headaches to defenses, which must decide which part of the Llano offense they want to take away.
“(Our running backs) can be quick and break tackles,” Green said.
In short, the possibilities of having explosive plays goes up, he added.
Coaches have spent time working with the offensive line. Green said the unit, which lost three key players to graduation, is coming along nicely. Right now, coaches are using a combination of players on different parts of the line, which indicates starting jobs are wide open.
“We’re changing the chemistry right now,” Green said. “We’re not able to get a constant flow. They’re not overly cohesive; they’re young and inexperienced (on the varsity level).”
Since some haven’t played together, giving the athletes time to learn each other’s tendencies is important, he added.
The coach said the offense is ahead of where it was this time last year. Playbook retention and understanding has allowed coaches to teach and add more options for moving the football.
“We’re able to hone in on stuff and be more specific of general schemes and broad topics,” Green said. “They know what they’re doing.”
Defensively, coaches like what they’re seeing because of the amount of talent and swarm to the football, Green said. He noted key linebackers graduated, so coaches are spending time teaching and correcting as athletes get ready to fill those roles.
“They’re getting better, and it’s noticeable,” the coach said. “They’re young on that side of the ball. It’ll take time.”
This season, senior defensive ends Drew Cooper and Thomas Adams will be counted on to provide leadership and anchor the front seven.
“Upfront, you see flashes of what they can do, and it’s exciting,” Green said. “They’ll have to grow.”
Green raved about the strength and conditioning of players, noting they didn’t get winded or tired even when they practiced in triple-digit weather.
“They handled the heat. It was hot,” he said. “Our practices have been really good.”
The Yellow Jackets host Blanco in a scrimmage Friday, Aug. 17, at Llano Stadium, 400 Texas 71 East. Subvarsities will play at 5 p.m., and the varsity will follow.
Last season, Llano finished at 5-6 overall and 2-2 in District 13-4A Division II.