Last year saw one of the bigger collapses in recent history. Not many 6-0 and universally state ranked teams miss the playoffs - especially with 5-6 D1 players - but that is what the Panthers managed to do last season - losing their last four games and finishing up 4th place in district giving up an embarrassing 63 points in the last game. This season has quite a bit of pessimism as the Panthers are the only team in the district that did not make the playoffs and they graduated a huge senior class. Coach Ringo feels a lot of young talent might step up this season and the Panthers could be a year away from a great team again. 9 starters return from last year's squad including 6 offensively.
If Plano East were a run based attack, this year might look good on paper. The offensive line is as good as it has been since Justin Blaylock anchored the offensive line. Chase Howland and Clark Cregg will likely play Saturday football and three other juniors provide good size and stability. TC Riley could end up being a special player. At running back, two D1 caliber running backs are in the rotation with Toben Opurum and D'Lyle Washington. They make their own form of Thunder and Lightning with Opurum bringing the thunder and Washington bringing the lightning. The big question will be at quarterback. Ryan Foster looked great during the spring game in leading the team but Brandon Wesley was better at 7 on 7 play. Reports from Aggieland were that Brandon Wesley was very impressive at the A&M camp - but that does not translate into a starting job. The receivers will be tall and physical. Rodney Thompson is a reliable hand and very speedy. Brandon Lewis really emerged as a good receiver in 7 on 7 as did Denzell White. Both could make immediate impacts.
Defensively will be a weakness. A team that gave up 30 points a game last season will have a hard time. One change that many people were calling for was the move to a 4 man front - which is expected to occur this year. Jacob Brendel started as a freshman last year toward the end of the season and was very impressive. He is a beast and will be a Jackson Jeffcoat/Rex Burkhead four year starter. Cody Scherer joins Brendel on the offensive line. The linebacker positions will be strong again with Logan Reneau and Conrad Bongo returning. Alex Broom should step in at linebacker. The secondary will be a weakness. The coaching staff will look for Josh Peprah to bounce back after a very disappointing junior seasion after a breakout sophomore season. Rodney Thompson is expected to play both ways as is Brandon Lewis. Davyvon Henry is a superstar in the making in the secondary as well. Lyndell Johnson - a super sophomore may see time at varsity in the rotation as well if he plays well during two-a-days.
Plano East has a lot of potential this year - but they are in an extremely tough district. The team will be extremely young with their senior class not being good at all. The juniors and sophomores will be leading this team. If they are going to win this season, the running game will have to carry them quite a bit and they will have to have one of their quarterbacks step-up. Considering every team made the playoffs last season and most are returning their quarterback, in this district, that is a tough question mark to have. This will be an extremely overachieving season or an extremely disappointing season. On paper, this team looks to go 3-7 and be a 5th place team. Coach Ringo is quite motivated to make sure that doesn't happen and to have a break-out year. He believes this team has the potential to be stronger than last year's team - but that might not be such a good place to be considering last year's team didn't make the playoffs. I do think East will win a game or two they shouldn't - but I am just not ready to pick them to make the playoffs - the only playoff team they beat last season is Plano West and they will be a top 10 area team this season. It could be another playoff-less year for the mighty Panthers in 2008.
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