With spring football now in full swing at many high schools, Inside Texas is traversing interstates and FM roads across the Lone Star State to talk with coaches and players and observe the talent each team has to offer.
This is the first spring I’m able to travel to spring practices, so I figured I would start with one of the top dogs in the Texas high school football landscape, the Allen Eagles.
Allen’s 2016 postseason run ended at the hands of The Woodlands in the state semifinals in Austin at Memorial Stadium. Allen head coach Terry Gambill, now entering his second season at the helm of the Eagles, is using the great resources, both in players and facilities, to his advantage.
Eagle Stadium is a true cathedral of high school football, and the facilities Allen has, including the weight room, are second to none. After walking through Allen’s indoor practice facility, Gambill strolled through the south end zone of Eagle Stadium and spoke with me as his team was warming up. Even though Allen carries high expectations year after year, Gambill is focusing on the little things to get results from his team.
“The deal for you to have a good football team is to have a good offseason, which we had a really, really good offseason, and you’ve got to have a great spring to answer a lot of questions about personnel,” Gambill said. “We’re starting week two. We found some things out week one. We’re trying to develop depth. We’re trying to learn to practice with consistency. If you can do those things, start forming what can be a good football team, then you’ve got a chance. Again, it takes a lot of consistent days of coming out and practicing really well.”
In a district with some of the largest high schools in Texas (four with more than 5,000 students), the competition level is always tough. Allen has plenty of talent, but some of that talent lacks a lot of varsity experience.
“Even if you have experience in certain areas, you never are the same,” Gambill said. “No matter what position we talk about, it all depends on how that player prepares himself to be successful because no player stays the same. You’ve got to practice.”
A player Gambill is looking to help lead his team at practice is Texas offensive line offer, 2018 Trey Stratford. Stratford, a 6-foot-4, 270 pound left tackle, was offered by Tom Herman in December and has made multiple visits to Texas since then.
“You’re looking for him to bring the work ethic and the leadership for that unit because he’s been through the trenches before,” Gambill said on Stratford. “You’re looking for Trey to make sure we have good practices. You’re looking for Trey to make sure that the right frame of mind is set and a guy that they can look up to.”
Stratford also has offers from Baylor, Nebraska, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, among others. He’s not the only P5 prospect on the Allen OL. Just check the man at the other tackle position, 2019 EJ Ndoma-Ogar.
Ndoma-Ogar made the odd move of returning to Allen from IMG Academy. Now back in DFW, he looked like a strong and willing blocker on the right side.
One place where Allen has talent but lacks experience is at quarterback. 2019 Grant Tisdale looks to be the favorite to lead the Eagles offense on the field in 2017. Tisdale, a 6-foot-1, 207 pounder has good footwork and a clean, repeatable delivery. He passed for 522 yards and ran for 185 at 4.3 yards per carry last season. So far, he has received offers from Mississippi State, SMU and Texas Tech, among others.
“I think he’s calm,” Gambill said. “He’s trying to learn the plays. Quarterbacks, there’s a lot on them. They can really make you have a successful season because there’s a lot of things they have to read, a lot of things they have to do on a daily basis to prepare to be successful. It goes back to how you practice.”
Though Tisdale was not subjected to contact in Monday’s practice, he showed great touch finding his talented receivers, 2019 Theo Wease and 2018 Carson Schleker.
Wease, a recent OU decommit, is one of the three wide outs Herman and his staff has offered for 2019. Several colleges, including coaches from Tennessee, Notre Dame, Arizona State and Southern Miss, were on hand to get a good look at Wease.
At 6-foot-3, 189 pounds, Wease has great body control, route running ability and solid hands. Gambill said Wease’s hand was a little dinged up, but it seemed to barely affect him. He also had little issue running routes and cutting following an operation on a sports hernia earlier this spring. Wease is the No. 1 option at wide receiver for Tisdale and the Eagles for good reason, but he has help in the slot.
Schleker is an interesting prospect. At 5-foot-9, 167 pounds, Schleker may be on the smaller side, but he uses his quickness, spring and speed in order to run solid routes. Also, while running on air, Schleker made some one handed catches look much more casual than they should have been.
The first-team all-district selection currently has P5 offers from Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, Louisville, Minnesota, Washington State, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Although Tisdale may not have a lot of experience, his partner in the backfield, 2018 RB Brock Sturges, will be there to make things easier. Sturges takes over as the feature back for Allen after 2018 Kirby Bennett transferred to Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas.
Sturges does not hold a Texas offer, but has been on campus before. Gambill expects a lot from his senior ball carrier.
“He loves to have a great offensive line,” Gambill said. “He does a great job of cutting. When he gets his hands on the ball, he’s got to protect the ball because that’s our family. He can’t be putting the family down on the ground. He’s got a big role ahead of him.”
The Eagles better be ready as Denton Guyer, Plano East, McKinney, Wylie, Plano West, Plano, and McKinney all will be gunning for Allen.
“Whoever we play, we’re going to get their best shot,” Gambill said.