Football: Rebuilding task for Sunlake's Browning
LAND O' LAKES -
Rebuilding certainly isn't something new for Sunlake High football coach Bill Browning.
After all, the veteran coach started the program and turned it into a playoff contender. But most of the players that led Sunlake to a 27-5 record during the past three seasons aren't on the field this spring.
So Browning and his staff are back to rebuilding.
“We've got a lot of coaching to do. It takes time. We've got a lot of puzzle pieces to put together,” Browning said. “It's really hard to say (if we're ahead or behind schedule) until we get up against somebody else. I mean, you can scrimmage, and somebody's got to look good. When you go against a different-colored jersey, that's when you know.”
Sunlake lost 23 seniors to graduation, half of the 2012 team, and only three (Joe Jean-Baptiste, Ricardo Williams and Jarrett Stark) remain from the 2011 team that won the school's only postseason game.
Among the losses are QB Josh Zifer and RB/CB Eddie Burgos, who both rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.
The 2013 season will be the fourth-consecutive year Browning has had to develop a quarterback, making Sunlake's recent successes even more remarkable. This spring, senior Esteban LeWallen is expected to take over.
In LeWallen, Browning sees a very athletic passer who, like Zifer, will be a threat to run the ball.
But in 2012, Sunlake's passing game suffered a sharp dropoff. The Seahawks ran the ball 345 times (79.1 percent) and passed only 91 (20.9). From a yardage standpoint, Sunlake got about only 18 percent of its total offensive from pass plays. Browning prefers a 60-40 run/pass ratio.
Junior center James Reynolds, who heads a new-look smaller offensive line but about the same strength, epitomizes the Sunlake rebuilding process. Reynolds had some playing time last year when starter Aaron Protch was injured.
“The core group, which you need, is always out there every single day, sweating their butts off,” Reynolds said. “That's big, especially right now, when you don't know what your identity is.”
Correspondent Bart O'Connell can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @BartOTrib.