McElroy excited about development of defense
Considering how good Burleson’s defense was last season, a statement made by Elks’ football coach Gary McElroy could have the rest Burleson’s opponents worried.
“We have the makings of the most athletic defense that we have had since I’ve been here,” McElroy said.
The Elks defense and offense will be on display at 6 p.m. Friday when they end spring football drills a scrimmage at Burleson ISD Stadium.
McElroy has opted to go with a scrimmage format again this season instead of a an actually spring game. The first-teamer offense and defense will square off during the scrimmage as will the second-teamers.
“It will be a scrimmage setting like it has been in the past,” McElroy said. “But we are going to get after it. We could use some unique scoring though. We might do something like that to make it interesting.”
Headlining the Elks’ defense will be returning end Trey Schuman and Corey Freelon along with linebacker Isaiah Nelson. Burleson has six starters on defense returning from a team that went two rounds deep in the playoffs.
“We have six players back on offense also,” McElroy said. “It’s not like the wheels fell off at graduation.”
One big plus for McElroy and his staff is the rise in numbers. There are 100 sophomores and juniors out for football along and another 80 freshmen, who practice at another time.
“The numbers are looking like Class 5A numbers again,” McElroy said. “We are even letting a handful of the freshmen, who might find their way to the varsity roster in the fall, practice with us.”
Even with six players back on offense, there are three big holes to fill at quarterback, tailback and wide receiver.
Taking over at quarterback is Hayden Whitten, the Elks’ backup last season.
“Hayden’s had a really good spring,” McElroy said. “He throws and runs the ball well. He actually runs the ball better than I expected. He is somewhere between Isaiah Hall and Preston Paden as far as running the football.”
Devin Stephenson has been impressive at running back McElroy said. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds Stephenson is growing into the role of being the No. 1 tailback.
“He’s not as big and heavy as Kobe Slaughter was but he’s a lot more shifty,” McElroy said. “He has a good burst and he’s a strong kid.”
Jaylen Johnson has taken over Taylor Bissell’s role as a utility guy for the Elks after playing running back and receiver last season.
“We use Jaylen on jet sweeps and get him the ball on screens,” McElroy said. “Plus he’s fast enough to beat people deep.”
The offensive line is solid with three starters back. Filling the empty spots are players who were varsity backups last season.
The Elks’s first test for the 2016 season will be a scrimmage Aug. 19 at Azle.
Burleson opens the football season Aug. 26 at home against Saginaw. The Elks remaining non-district games will be on the road Sept. 2 versus Fort Worth Paschal and Sept. 9 against Weatherford.
Burleson opens District 9-5A play Sept. 23 hosting Granbury. The annual “Boot Game” with Centennial on is slated for Nov. 14. Burleson will be the visiting team.