A balanced attack is a high priority this season for Badger Offensive Coordinator Heath Naragon. One of the biggest tasks for the team will be replacing running back Sean Williams, who earned about 87 percent of the ground yardage in 2017.
Williams, a three-year varsity player, graduated in the spring and committed to the William Jewell College football program in Missouri.
Ace Whitehead is returning to the squad as a sophomore after his 2,200-yard-plus passing performance last fall.
“There’s gonna be nothing changed schematically from what we’re doing …,” Naragon said. “Obviously we lost some players.”
Brandon Pierino, the Badgers’ leading receiver last season, graduated from Lampasas High School after a three-year varsity football career. He hauled in passes for about 800 yards as a senior before signing with Wayland Baptist University.
Several other receivers and linemen are back for the Badgers. Rudy Esparza, now a third-year varsity player, joins Adam Murphy, Kanon Kennedy, Austin Kielpinski and Ripley Kiser as returning linemen.
Murphy has gotten “a lot bigger and stronger for us,” Naragon said, and “he’s looking really good.”
Kielpinski moved up from the JV late last season. He also has improved in strength and size, “so we’re expecting some really good things from him,” the offensive coordinator said.
Returning lettermen will be on their toes with some young players challenging for those starting positions, Naragon said.
“We’re gonna put the five best offensive linemen every game,” he said. “If that’s starting a sophomore over a returning senior, that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Cameron Everts, Owen Davis and Clayton Bever are receivers with a full year of varsity experience.
“We’re happier this year than we have been the last couple of years about our depth,” Naragon said.
At the F position – running back – sophomore Jack Jerome and senior Anthony Arnold are seeing a lot of reps.
Arnold is “a hard-working kid that does what we ask,” while Jerome is “a young guy that does really well for us,” Naragon said.
Jerome is more of a power runner who plowed through defenders at the subvarsity level last fall.
Although the Badgers’ formations create the appearance of many different combinations, “we only really do three basic run plays,” Naragon said.
The Badgers are aiming for a 50-50 pass/run ratio that could vary from week to week depending on the opposing defense.
Last year, the passing game contributed about 58 percent of the team’s yardage.
Naragon said Williams’ shoes will be hard to fill.
‘To give that [role] to one guy might put a little pressure on someone that doesn’t need to be there,” he said. “It could be that we have three or four running backs that take that exact same load that Sean Williams took.
“We want our running backs to be very versatile,” Naragon added. “We want ’em to be able to run the football. We want ’em to be able to pass protect. We want ’em to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield.”
After an intrasquad scrimmage last Saturday, the Badgers will host their first scrimmage against another team, Waco University, at 6:30 p.m. Friday.