Spring Football Preview: Head Coach Ricklan Holmes + John Tyler ‘Reload’
TYLER — John Tyler’s football team loses 5,000 total yards of offense at the quarterback position and arguably the deepest receiving corps in program history.
Also gone are defensive stalwarts at multiple positions.
Don’t tell Lions boss Ricklan Holmes.
The John Tyler graduate led Cujo to a 13-2 record and Class 4A Division I state semifinal in his first season as head coach thanks in part to a loaded 2013 class: record-breaking quarterback Greg Ward (Houston signee), all-everything receiver Fred Ross (Mississippi State), 24-sack defensive end terror Tyus Bowser (Houston), and a slew of other key playmakers — Darion Flowers (Sam Houston State), Justice Liggins (SFA), Richard Gipson (Lamar), DeQuante Woods (Texas A&M-Commerce), Chris Mobley (Tyler Junior College), and several others.
Spring football starts next Wednesday for the Lions, who will have a May 30 spring game at TMF Rose Stadium starting at 5 p.m.
Holmes acknowledged the losses graduation will bring to his program, but emphasized a “We don’t rebuild, we reload” motto during a Wednesday afternoon interview with ETSN.fm.
Here’s what Holmes had to say about what to expect this spring with an eye toward this fall and the 2013 campaign.
Q&A with John Tyler Coach Ricklan Holmes
- ETSN.fm: How has everything been going during offseason?
- Ricklan Holmes: Offseason rolled through well. The track team did a great job making it to regionals, qualifying and getting close to a district title. The football team as a whole is getting stronger, getting faster, getting bigger. We’re starting to get a lot of traffic come through now with recruiting. We’ve got us a lot of players, we’ve just gotta keep them consistent in doing what they’re doing, knowing what their role is and understanding that.
- ETSN: Other than 2014 safety Terry Ausborne (recently got an SMU offer), who are some of the guys receiving recruiting attention?
- RH: Reggie Gipson (RB, 5-8, 175), Andrew Clark (LB, 6-1, 205), Tra Moore (OL/DL, 6-3, 291), Robbie Washington (DB, 6-1, 175), Greg Johnson (DB, 6-0, 170), along with Preston Mitchell (). Those are the main guys getting looks in the 2014 class. And you know how colleges are. They’re already looking ahead at 2015. Our quarterback is one, Geo McCollister (6-3, 190). A lot of them really like Rodney Bendy (6-4, 180) and Jassavia Reese (6-4, 230), a wide receiver and defensive end. Since both played last year they already have film on them, and now they get to come see them in person.
- ETSN: One of the first things that comes to mind when you look at what you look at what you’re losing from last year’s team is Greg Ward at quarterback. How are you addressing the void his graduation will create?
- RH: We’ve got a great candidate in Geo McCollister. He’s a bigger kid, still mobile. Arm strength is about the same as Greg’s. We just have to make sure he understands the offense like Greg did.That’s gonna be the difference between him and Greg coming into next season, him understanding and knowing the things that he needs to do and has to do. He’s getting there. Every day he makes fewer and fewer mistakes. He gets a lot better at his reads now. That’s starting to come because now he has to be at the forefront and he’s starting to become a little bit of a leader. He’s stepping up to the plate and understanding what his role takes. We’ve gotta find a trigger man, and he’s gonna be the trigger man. Right now he’s doing everything he needs to do to be the trigger man. He has receivers that are actually gonna be veterans next year. You got Jeremy Wilson (5-7, 170; 2015), Rodney Bendy, Nick Cain (5-10, 165; 2015). Those three guys played in the fire last year. Now you add one more to the equation which is probaly gonna be Tommy Dyers (2015) along with Andre Crawford (2015). They played on JV and were very productive on JV last year and went 9-1 on that team. I think they’re gonna be able to step up in there, and they’re gonna follow the lead of the Rodney Bendys and the Nick Cains. As far as the receiving corps, we’re gonna have another big-play guy. It’s gonna be Rodney Bendy. It’s gonna be Nick Cain. They’re gonna be our playmakers next year. You also gotta get the ball in the hands of the speedy, shifty guy, which is Jeremy Wilson. Coming out of the backfield you’ve got another veteran, Reggie Gipson, who’s been through the fire. He understands what it takes to win games that we need won.
- ETSN: Defensively you’re kinda facing the same scenario as quarterback since you’re losing Tyus Bowser at defensive end. That’s 24 sacks you won’t have.
- RH: And Jassavia Reese should have 25. He’s a very gifted kid. Very rangy. He has an upside. He’s 6-4 and he’s getting bigger and bigger every day. He played last year behind Bowser at 211 pounds. Now he’s about 230. He’s gotten bigger, he’s gotten faster, he’s gotten stronger. He understands that he is fixing to be the man now and he has to do it the next two years. He’s not afraid of it, just like when we moved him up to varsity last year. He knew he wasn’t gonna get very many reps because of Bowser being in front of him, but that’s understandable. The thing I like about him is he knows he had to pay his dues. Not just with players, but I put this with coaches, too. Young coaches gotta learn to pay their dues just like young players. You gotta put your work in and finally it’ll pay off. It just so happens, he was only (paying his) for one year. Now, he has to step up to the plate for two years in a row and get it done, and I think he will. That’s why when OU and Texas came through here yesterday, that’s the first thing they said. ‘Hey, who’s the kid with the dreads?’ I said, ‘Who are you talking about?’ They said, ‘The defensive end.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy you wanna know.’ In the linebacking corps you’ve got Darius Amie (6-1, 220; 2014) and Andrew Clark that are returning. Then you have an athletic group that played at the JV level with Tillman Morgan (2015) and Deandre Benson (2015). Those two guys right there have really impressed me and coach (Barry) Anderson during this whole offseason with their work ethic and them understanding the play at linebacker that they’re gonna need to play. I’m pretty excited to see how they’re gonna react when pads come on. These key guys moving up were big parts of that JV going 9-1 and winning a district championship. Anytime you have a strong JV, you should be able to replace a strong varsity.
- ETSN: In other words, in addition to promising JV guys coming up, you have plenty of varsity veterans who will be back, right? Despite what people first think when they hear who you’re losing to graduation.
- RH: A lot of people don’t know (how many veterans are back) because it’s overshadowed by Greg Ward and Fred Ross and Tyus Bowser. Those three big guys right there, when you think about them leaving, you’re like, ‘Well who else was there?’ But there were a lot of guys behind them that played and they’re gonna be able to do what they’ve done. I reminded my team that Greg, Fred, Darion, Justice, DeQuante, Bowser, when all those guys first got here, people didn’t know who they were. They had to do what (the current underclassmen) are doing right now to become who they became. They’re going through the same process. I hate it at the beginning (of the season) everybody comes up like, ‘Man, y’all gotta rebuild this year.’ No, there’s no such thing as rebuilding. Same gun, just different bullets. That’s our motto. We don’t rebuild, we reload. I got a lot of bullets to use, and as long as I’m here and I’m the same gun, it’s gonna get done. My staff, they love what they do. I hired nine guys to come in here last year, and nine are probably going to stay. They love doing what they’re doing. They have knowledge of the game and we just all have fun. Gotta find players and put them in a position to win.
- ETSN: Who’s somebody fans and media don’t know about right now but will come fall?
- RH: We’ve got a couple of kids at the freshman level that are gonna be able to help us out this year. One particular is Braylon Jones (DL; 2016). Y’all might wanna remember that name. He’s gonna be a manchild. When OU and Texas and Louisiana Tech come through here, they say, ‘Hey, who is that kid right there.’ I say, ‘Oh, that’s the freshman.’ They say, ‘What?’ So, you like to hear stuff like that. He plays D-line, but here at John Tyler he can go both ways. Just like Tra Moore. Just like Chris Mobley. I don’t believe in having one guy play one position. I believe in the best 11 play. If they so happen to be offensive and defensive players, they better get in shape like Darion Flowers did.
- 2 — number of John Tyler’s top 11 tacklers from 2012 that will be back this fall: safety Terry Ausborne (86) and linebacker Andrew Clark (43)
- 337.5 — yards of total offense per game John Tyler loses with the graduation of quarterback Greg Ward
- 57 — total touchdowns (44 passing, 13 rushing) John Tyler loses with the graduation of quarterback Greg Ward
- 9.4 — percentage of John Tyler’s 4,265 receiving yards from the 2012 season that will be back in 2013 (404 yards)
- 22.0 — percentage of John Tyler’s 2,428 rushing yards from the 2012 season that will be back in 2013 (534 yards)
- 14.0 — percentage of John Tyler’s 6,693 yards from scrimmage from the 2012 season that will be back in 2013 (938 yards)
- 20 — playoff games John Tyler has played in the last five seasons, including 18 in the last four years
- 48-10 — John Tyler’s record since 2009