For a program that prides themselves on progressing through continuity, there’s a different look to the 2017 offseason for the College Station Cougars.
After narrowly missing out on a chance to play for the Class 5A State Title last December, playing deep into the season pushed back the Cougars regular offseason regimen. This had the potential to cause quite a stir for the Cougars proceedings, but Head Coach Steve Huff welcomes the change knowing that it’s nature was bred from success.
“This year is the first time we’ve played that close to Christmas,” Huff said. “Last couple of years, good or bad, we’ve had a little time before Christmas to get some of our heavy lifting done, but this year we didn’t have that luxury, so it’s been a little different.”
Over the years, Huff and his coaching staff have tried to maintain the same routine throughout the offseason, with focus on the progression of the juniors into leadership roles. Losing the likes of Ty Brock, a two-year captain and a vocal leader on the team, Mark Wagner, Anthony Flores and a host of others, Huff says there has been an emphasis on seeing who from the rising seniors can step up and assume those vacant leadership roles.
“First thing we did this offseason was move all the juniors into the varsity locker, so if you were a junior you’re in,” Huff said, “But if their grades fell, attitude or they have discipline problems that took away from your leadership abilities, we moved them back to the J.V. locker room. It’s started to take hold.”
This mentality has made the rising seniors understand their importance to the program going forward and the steps needed to take to keep progressing. It has also translated onto the field, where there is a tough competition for starting places with five starters returning on each side of the ball.
Traditionally, the Cougars have been known to not only have depth in positions, but also have players from others assume starting roles. The most notable of these being rising-senior quarterback Marquez Perez, who was a receiver until then-quarterback Ty Brock went down with a season-ending injury. This paved the way for the Cougars record-setting run and Huff feels there is always a chance for another gem to come from changing positions this spring.
“Sometimes as coaches we over-coach so much and sometimes it makes the player bound up, and it’s not on the player, it’s on us as the coach,” Huff chuckled. “I think it’s about having a system in place and a philosophy on how you want to play, then adjusting that philosophy according to the players you have and their strong suits.”
This is the mentality the coaching staff has going into the offseason and it’s through that philosophy Huff and his staff have seen reap benefits in seasons past.
“That’s why we love spring. you get to go out there and see it all in action,” Huff said, “We have the majority of our kids in and there’s always a few that you see that the six months or a year of development has really elevated them. A big part of our job is to identify those kids and put them in the right spots.”
Huff says that the large group of seniors this offseason understand it’s not enough to just show up and put on the purple and black. But with the returning seniors, 2017 looks to be panning out as another promising campaign for a team starting to establish themselves a force in Class 5A.
Huff recognizes the accomplishments from last season’s team that are there to build on, he knows there will be no free passes on reputation alone, and come fall, their record will read 0-0 like everyone else in the state and district alike. The fifth year coach is aware of the expectations for the talented group, but welcomes it because it means they are doing the right things.
However, for a group he expects to play at a high level, the group won’t be judged on wins and losses, but rather consistently get better every week as the season progresses. Talks of Week 1 are already ringing around the fieldhouse at College Station, with another chance to reach new heights, perhaps this time, by way of a state title run.
“Are the expectations higher? Should be. And should they be for this group of kids? Absolutely. At the end of the day, it’s high school football and the pressure is always going to be there,” Huff said. “You find out quickly who’s going to sink or swim, and so I look forward to them to swim hard.”
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