Spring Football Preview: Lufkin Panthers Excited After Strong Finish to 2012
Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said it twice: the Panthers must start 2013 the way they finished 2012.
"We've gotta start where we left off last year. We've gotta start where we ended and build on that," Quick said. "We've got a strong senior class and it's important to them. We're excited and they're excited. If you've got them excited, that's about 90 percent of it right there."
Quick led Lufkin to a 9-4 record in 2012, the first season as head coach for the longtime Lufkin defensive coordinator. The Panthers started 3-3 with lopsided losses to Longview and The Woodlands, but got hot, winning six in a row before falling 55-52 in a thrilling third-round playoff loss to Plano West.
Lufkin must replace gunslinging left-handed quarterback Tyler Stubblefield, who threw for almost 3,600 yards and 39 touchdowns, plus SMU signee JaBryce Taylor, who led East Texas with more than 1,600 receiving yards. The early frontrunner to take over Stubblefield's spot is another lefty, junior-to-be Trey Cumbie. (Quick noted Lufkin has had one right-handed quarterback in the last decade.)
But the cupboard isn't bare in Lufkin. A new crop of 2014 and 2015 athletes have expectations high for Quick and company.
ETSN.fm caught up with Quick on Wednesday afternoon to discuss what Lufkin hopes to accomplish during spring football, which starts Monday. The Panthers' spring game will be May 23 and they plan to hold a couple of Thursday scrimmages at Abe Martin Stadium in the coming weeks.
Q&A with Lufkin Coach Todd Quick
- ETSN.fm: How are you approaching the process of replacing Tyler Stubblefield?
- Todd Quick: We had a kid (2015 prospect Trey Cumbie, 6-2, 205) we had a kid that was his backup all year, a young kid, a sophomore. We had to have him up as a backup and didn't get to play him as much as we wanted. He's in baseball right now. If we win Friday night and Bryan beats College Park, we'll have a playoff between those three teams. We'll know Friday or Saturday if (Cumbie) is gonna be with us (to start spring practice). If not, we're gonna work our two inside receivers at quarterback, Jamal Jeffery (committed to Texas A&M) and KeKe Coutee, and we'll get some stuff done. That's kind of a package we'll have with those guys throughout the year, anyway, so it's something we'll use. It's gonna be tough to replace (Stubblefield). That's a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns we've gotta replace, but somebody will be in there and they'll get the job done.
- ETSN: You lose JaBryce Taylor, but you appear to have a fairly loaded receiving corps with Jamal Jeffery (5-10, 170; 2014), KeKe Coutee (5-10, 170; 2015), and Terry Mark (6-2, 180; 2015), who was hurt last year. What are you expecting from that group?
- TQ: Those two inside guys, they really cause a lot of matchup issues, especially when you put a linebacker on them. They're playmakers. Terry just had his knee scoped last week and had it cleaned up, but Jamal and KeKe are both healthy. We've got some kids that are playmakers. We've just gotta continue to get better just build on what we've already done.
- ETSN: KeKe has had a lot of recruiting interest already, right?
- TQ: I know Texas is really interested in him. It's just gonna get bigger and bigger for him. He's not real big, but he just has it. Doesn't matter how big he is. I know Texas really likes him.
- ETSN: You switched to the 4-3 defense midseason and seemed to really hit your stride during that six-game winning streak. Will you be working on the 4-3 this spring in anticipation of it being your primary base defense this fall?
- TQ: Yes, we'll be in the 4-3. It really matches up to the personnel that we have. The three linebackers are back, two of the four defensive linemen are back. It just matches up with our personnel. They're comfortable in it. We went to the 4-2-5 just to get more people in the box, but it just wasn't us. The coaches, too. It wasn't our personality. We've been a 4-3 team forever, so it wasn't that big of a switch. They did it in middle school, JV, and freshman. We'll do some things off of it but that's our base defense.
- ETSN: You mentioned your two defensive linemen who are back. That includes D.J. Williams (6-4, 290; 2014), who really caught my eye last year. Do you expect him to be the anchor in the middle this year?
- TQ: Yes. He's 6-4, 290 and runs really good and has had a really good spring. Texas really liked him. He's the one that's drawing the double and freeing up the linebacker, freeing up D.J. Alexander (2014). He's the one that's been in the battles that we had last year. We're expecting him to be even better than last year. We're expecting him to mature and grow up and take charge.
- ETSN: You're 2014 class is talented, but it seems like you've really got a lot of talent in your 2015 class: Coutee, Cumbie, Mark, offensive lineman Erik McCoy (6-3, 270; 2015), and others. How far will this spring go in showing you the potential of your 2015 class?
- TQ: A lot of those 2015 kids were on the field last year. We ended up having about 12 sophomores on the varsity roster. They were getting good experience. There may be one or two sophomores on the roster this year. There's no way to know for sure, but you've gotta think about that experience they gained last year and be excited about it. We're just gonna continue to work and they gotta continue to be hungry.
- 100--1,561--19 -- combined 2012 receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns by 2015 receiver KeKe Coutee and 2014 receiver Jamal Jeffery (Texas A&M pledge)
- 3,816--48 -- yards of total offense and total touchdowns Lufkin loses with the graduation of quarterback Tyler Stubblefield, a Texas A&M baseball signee
- 15.2 -- points per game Lufkin allowed during its six-game winning streak during the second half of the 2012 season (Panthers allowed 41.4 points per game in their other seven contests, going 3-4)
- 4 of 6 -- leading tacklers returning for Lufkin, led by a team-best 78 from 2014 linebacker Kevin Moore
- 58--6--4 -- tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks for 2014 defensive tackle D.J. Williams in 2012
Spring Football Previews
- Wednesday, April 24 -- Lufkin Panthers
- Tuesday, April 23 -- Longview Lobos