DADE CITY — Spring football is about answering questions.
It has been that way for Tom McHugh for a while and it’ll probably stay that way. So while the Pasco High football coach, entering his eighth season after spending just as many years as defensive coordinator under John Castelamare at Wesley Chapel, McHugh will do the same thing he’s done every spring: experiment.
“It’s only spring time, so we’re still figuring out what is going to work best and working on filling in the spots,” said McHugh, the winningest coach for the oldest, and winningest, Pasco County football program. “We lost three guys on defense who had been there for three years and every time you lose a Malik (Johns) or Janarion Grant, that’s tough. I already had some ideas coming in, but we have a plethora of kids that a really good athletes.”
Losing Malik Johns (1,832 all-purpose yards, 22 total TDs) and defensive stalwarts such as Lane Stancil, J.D. Edwards and Jacob Morphew isn’t easy, but returning players such as tight end and Miami-commit Bowman Archibald, linebacker Brandon Debyah and impressive athletes Isaac Johnson and Tyree Austin help.
“I don’t think there is going to be one star on offense,” McHugh said. “We have to find out what everyone can do. If its going to be a dive back or a bully back and then a guy who can run sweeps — we’ll just have to have one guy do one thing and do our best.
“It’s not that we can’t decide on one player, its deciding on what plays we’re going to run and who is going to be the best to run them. (Offensive coordinator) Brad Starling is very good at figuring out what we should run.”
It’s also about options, McHugh said. He’s coached enough athletes and sent many more to college to know having many facets makes his job easier, and more fun, when he can throw multiple weapons at opposing teams. Just like having three different players — Johnson, Brandon Ray and Grant Starling — see time at quarterback.
Different formations, routes and players all help McHugh and company start the season off better than 2-3, like in 2013, but also stay atop a tough Class 5A-District 6.
“I’m looking at the first game,” McHugh said. “We have to win that, then it’s about the district games, and it is what it is, and you have to win those, too. Right now is about trying out what works best for you with what you have. That’s my plan for right now.”
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.