Now that the coaching carousel appears to have settled down — the Hoyas played for four head coaches in a three-year span — players can now concentrate on perfecting their craft instead of worrying about having to learn a new system from scratch.
Matt Dickmann is about to begin his second season after leading Harrison to a 4-6 record, finishing one win shy of making the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
It’s the first time since 2011 that Harrison will begin a season with an incumbent coach, but that’s when the roller coaster began.
David Hines was not retained after the 2011 season, and Marty Galbraith only lasted seven games before resigning amid allegations of improper conduct. Longtime Hoyas coach Bruce Cobleigh stepped in to complete the 2012 season, and Dickmann was then hired for 2013.
During spring practice, in which they were familiar with what Dickmann was preaching, the Hoyas made strides toward being a much-improved team in the fall.
Though Harrison is set to return only four starters on offense and four on defense, Dickmann said those numbers are deceiving. Many of the returning players have seen significant playing time off the bench.
“Probably, the biggest thing for us is staying healthy,” Dickmann said. “We’re in a situation where we don’t have a lot of depth, but we have young guys behind the older guys, and we’re ahead of where we were last year.”
Having the same leadership intact should benefit senior quarterback Lorenzo Nunez, a recent commitment to South Carolina.
Statistically, Nunez was average in 2013, throwing for 1,148 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions —with four of those picks coming in one game. He was also Harrison’s leading rusher at 786 yards.
With better knowledge of the offense in 2014, Dickmann expects to see just how talented Nunez is.
If spring was any indication, Dickmann said Nunez is making better reads and better decisions while running Harrison’s multiple offense, such as tucking the ball and running with it when their isn’t an open receiver.
“He’s more aware of what everybody is doing and is able to be more of a leader this year,” Dickmann said.
It also helps Nunez to have a senior-laden backfield behind him. Hayden Messina’s speed and Orlando Hester’s power could make for an effective running back duo. Messina rushed for 341 yards and three touchdowns last fall.
Harrison’s offensive line is a blend of experience and youth. Rising senior Byron Glass returns at center, while senior Dominick Workman is moving from guard to tackle.
The Hoyas are also having to find replacements for defensive linemen Joey Connors and Jalen Penn. While their potential successors haven’t been named, upcoming Seth Simmer had a solid spring up front.
Rising seniors Jonathan Grimes and Ross Neely were graded high at inside linebacker, and Seth Cowan performed well in the secondary.