by Max Foster
roundup staff reporter
If the turnout for last week's Longhorn football camp is any indication of team success, the upcoming season will be a banner one.
According to newly appointed defensive coordinator Jack Morris, more than 60 youngsters showed up for the preseason training sessions. The contingent, he said, was the largest in the six years he's been associated with the program.
During the course of the four days of training, the fledgling players were tutored in the nuances of new coach Steve Saban's system.
Defensively, with Morris at the controls, the team will retain the 52, odd-front look it has featured for the past several seasons.
"We won't do much different," Morris said.
Offensively, Saban has scrapped the power option offense of former coach Mike Wheelis and his predecessor Jim Beall.
Instead of powering the ball down the defense's throats with off-tackle runs and options, Saban will call upon the finesse of the Wing-T which features inside traps, sweeps and bootlegs.
The offense shouldn't be anything new to the members of the junior class. They rode the offense to an undefeated season and White Mountain League championship when they were eighth-graders at Rim Country Middle School.
Saban has the opportunity to put the new offense to the test Aug. 24 in a controlled scrimmage at Phoenix Christian. There, he'll have a nucleus of players who proved at the camp they have the skills to make the Wing-T click.
Among those Morris cited for outstanding efforts were Waylon Pettet, Ingo Beck and Levi Armstrong.
Although positions will not be determined until later in pre-season practices, Pettet a starter at flanker and kick returner last season has the speed and elusiveness to become an all-league running back.
Armstrong, also a starter last season, could be the hard-nosed fullback the offense needs.
Morris said Beck is being counted on to anchor the offensive line.
Defensively at the camp, Morris and the rest of the coaching staff were able to preview several promising players. Among them were Levi Amon, Sean Pickle, Mike Barr and Ky Bradley.
Amon could play linebacker; Pickle is penciled in on the defensive line; Barr might start at defensive end; and Bradley will man a defensive backfield slot.
Last season, Bradley was one of the Longhorns' most consistent defensive performers, even though he was seeing double duty as the team's starting quarterback.
The varsity coaching staff has about 18 practices to fine-tune the team before it travels to Phoenix Christian for the scrimmage.
Because there will be no two-a-day practices this year due to the early start of the school Aug. 6, the coaching staff will probably lengthen after school sessions, Morris said.
The season kicks off in earnest Aug. 30 in St. Johns. Although the Redskins are a small 2A school, the team is traditionally one of the best in the conference.
After taking on homestanding Wickenburg Sept. 14, the Horns make their East region home debut Sept. 14 against Holbrook.
Varsity kick-off times are 7 p.m.
(Note: The 2001 PHS football schedules indicate the season-opening scrimmage versus Phoenix Christian is Monday, Aug. 20. Those schedules are incorrect. The scrimmage is Aug. 24).