Soon after Wiregrass Ranch promoted assistant Mike Lawrence to turn around a struggling Bulls team, Lawrence reached out to a few experts in rebuilding programs: Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops and Mark Mangino. • Lawrence knows the trio from his playing days as a running back at Kansas State. • Snyder turned the Wildcats from a laughingstock to a top-10 program, while Stoops and Mangino were K-State assistants before revitalizing Oklahoma and Kansas.
Lawrence hopes the advice of his mentors helps Wiregrass Ranch achieve similar results after back-to-back winless seasons and a North Suncoast-worst 22-game losing streak.
“They tell me you have to lead by example,” said Lawrence, Wiregrass’ offensive coordinator last fall. “Be able to delegate, and success will come.”
Lawrence has surrounded himself with seasoned assistants — including 31-year veteran coach Steven Cash — with a new commitment to discipline that was obvious Monday when the Bulls opened spring practice.
Instead of only watching from the sideline, backups ran. When the field-goal team let the defense block a kick, they were sentenced to pushups, capping each one with the word “win.”
During lulls, the Bulls stood in a line with their hands behind their backs and their chests out. Lawrence called out a number, and the roster barked out memorized tenets of Wiregrass’ philosophy, like “proper preparation prevents poor performance.”
“In order for us to be successful and change and stuff like that, we have to be more disciplined in our craft and what we do,” Lawrence said. “It’s a long haul. Every day we’ve got to get better.”
By the numbers: Hudson
3 Victories last season under first-year coach Mark Kantor
5 Wins from 2009-11
22 Field-goal distance by Nate Binder (in overtime) that gave Hudson a 27-24 win over Ridgewood
24 Games lost by Hudson in a row before Binder’s kick
74 Tackles by Binder, the Cobras’ top returner
656 Rushing yards by Noah Siegrist as a junior
Replacing McLeod with … McLeod
One of Springstead’s biggest chores for the spring is to find a replacement for all-Suncoast linebacker Luke McLeod, a Harding recruit who racked up 149 tackles and four sacks during the Eagles’ run to the Class 6A, District 6 title.
“Funny thing is,” first-year coach Mike Garofano said, “we’re trying to replace him with his brother.”
That’d be Dylan McLeod.
Luke’s little brother has bulked up since being listed at 5-foot-7, 156 pounds at the start of last season. As a sophomore, Dylan finished with 28 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. He also helped make a game-saving tackle in the closing minutes of a 28-21 win over Anclote.
Another obvious candidate to duplicate the elder McLeod’s production is linebacker Conor Ross, who has finished in the top three at state in wrestling his first two years. As a sophomore, he recorded 105 tackles and a team-leading seven sacks last fall.