Throughout practice, coach Jarrett Troxler matches the pace to what his no-huddle, up-tempo spread offense will be like during the 2012 season – fast.
“You’ve really got to be in shape to go against the offense because it’s nonstop,” senior linebacker JaVeon Brigham said.
Brigham, who recorded 80 tackles, including six sacks, helped the Panthers advance to the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs in 2011. He is one of just four returning starters, however.
“Anytime you replace a large number of seniors like we have, there’s a little uncertainty there, but we’re excited about the challenge,” Troxler said.
Hunter Banks steps in at quarterback, replacing Mark Weidenaar, the 2011 Region 2-AAAA Player of the Year, and Troxler likes what he has seen leading into the season.
“The coaches are calling the plays, but he’s got to run the show out there,” Troxler said. “He did a good job of that during the spring, during the summer. He worked in the system last year as a JV quarterback and he feels comfortable in that role.”
Junior wide receiver Jonathan Edwards, a player Troxler called explosive, will be a key target for Banks. In his sophomore season, Edwards caught 38 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns.
“I see us making it pretty far,” Edwards said. “We’re young but fast, really talented. I think we’re going to be pretty good.”
Troxler said he is looking forward to seeing what the guys up front can do, although they will be starting the season minus one of their stalwarts on the line. Senior Lee Bellmer suffered a stress fracture in his foot about five weeks ago and was operated on two weeks ago. The timetable for return is uncertain.
“I think we’ll be OK without me, but as soon as I can come back I’m happy to,” Bellmer said. “The hardest thing will be Friday night not being able to strap up and go out there with my brothers.”
While the Panthers’ early-season schedule is by no means a cakewalk, the team doesn’t play a region game until Sept. 28 with a bye week Sept. 14. That will help give Bellmer more time to recover and the Panthers time to iron out the early-season kinks.
“It helps a lot,” Troxler said of the schedule. “There’s nothing like game reps.”