HIGHLAND Lone Peak football coach Tony McGeary isn't showing many of the common signs of pressure that first-year coaches normally display.
Perhaps it's because he's taking over a program that is deep in talent and is bringing back a lot of players who played a lot of varsity minutes last season including his quarterback and six starters on defense.
Surprisingly, the Knights' new coach says he isn't feeling any additional pressure in coaching at a school rich in tradition and with a strong history of success. Rather than getting caught up in others' expectations, he's trying to build on the energy and enthusiasm that comes with change.
"Just a whole new attitude is what we're trying to develop here," McGeary said. "And, hopefully, that will take us somewhere good."
McGeary is quick to point out, however, that just because he's a new coach with new ideas doesn't mean this will be a rebuilding season for the Knights. In fact, the team's 15-2 record in summer camps shows the Knights are ready to compete this year.
"I think we have the kids to win now," he said.
Expect the Knights to throw the ball a little bit more, but not out of a shotgun formation. McGeary likes his quarterback, junior Tannon Pederson, to be under the center where he can incorporate a lot of the three-step-drop pass plays commonly used by Southern Cal the past few years. Basically, the Knights will run several formations under the West Coast offensive scheme, with a touch of the spread thrown in.
"We've got some great running backs who catch the ball well out of the backfield. We want to get them in mismatch situations as much as possible," McGeary said.
He also wants to get more players involved in the offensive attack and have more balance.
"We've got some offensive weapons on this team, and we want to spread the ball around and hurt teams with every weapon that we have," McGeary said.
Experience-wise, the Knights should be stronger on defense than offense. Most of the team's top tacklers from a year ago are back. The Knights again should showcase a very athletic group of defensive backs and linebackers.
Even as deep as Lone Peak is in numbers and talent, many players are likely to play on both sides of the ball."We are going to put our best 11 players on the field," McGeary said.
Lone Peak Knights 2008
COACH: Tony McGeary (1st year)
KEY PLAYERS: Last year as a sophomore quarterback, Tannon Pederson had some good moments and also took a pounding at times. But, he learned a lot and has progressed into one of the top passers around. His main targets are going to be receiver Chandler Allphin and tight end Eric Turyville. The Knights also should have a strong running game this year with the powerful and quick Kade Andrus in the backfield, along with the elusive Quaide Chappius. The Knights' line should be solid with John Montrose, Shon Curtis, Kade Bearnson and Dan Hubert. Several strong linebackers return, with Zane Mendenhall and Greg Gowdy leading the way. Cortland Christian will anchor the defensive backfield.
STRENGTHS: As is usually the case with Lone Peak's team, this squad is again deep in talent. With so many juniors and sophomore playing last season the Knights are also experienced. They have very good team speed, have a good core of skill-position players and have a line that is quick and agile. With six returning starters, the defense should also be very strong.
QUESTION MARKS: Even though the Knights are loaded with talent, their team unity has not been tested yet with all of the philosophy and coaching changes. Also, the Knights need to develop more toughness, learn to play more physical and show that they can respond well to adversity and pressure.
PROJECTED 2008 REGION 4 FINISH: Third
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: The Knights should be one of those teams fighting for one of the league's three cherished playoff spots. If they can adjust to the coaching changes by the time league play rolls around, they should make it to postseason. They even have the talent to make some playoff noise if their skill-position players stay healthy.