Following two straight losing seasons, Jeff Duncan thinks this season will demonstrate a return-to-form for the football program.
Duncan, entering his third season as the Longhorns' head coach, said his team has high expectations for the upcoming season.
“We’ve got five or six kids who have started since they were sophomores and we return (with) nine offensive starters (from last year),” Duncan said.
Junior J.C. DeMuri takes over for Class of 2011 graduate Dominique Atkins at quarterback. DeMuri played some last year, completing 22 of 61 passes for 216 yards and five interceptions.
Duncan said DeMuri is a lot more confident this season. Offensive coordinator Jamie Martin is a former pro quarterback who spent 10 of his 17 NFL seasons with the Rams – both in Los Angeles and St. Louis. He said DeMuri has all the physical tools to succeed in West’s pro style offense.
“He got a little experience last year and has progressed through the summer,” Martin said. “He’s done a nice job and is coming into his own.”
In front of DeMuri will be four offensive line starters from a year ago. That group is anchored by seniors Austin Doss and Stephen Gorzyca, who measures in at 6-feet-4 and 300 pounds. Left tackle Mustafa Saffaf, left guard Calvin Gorzyca and center James O’Brien help complete the offensive line.
Rane Eskelsen will move from tight end to fullback to pave the way for returning starter Ed Carter, who rushed for 489 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. Also back are starting wideouts Cole Lema and Sean Roskamp.
“We’re excited to have that nucleus of players back,” Duncan said, adding that he’ll be looking for more consistency from an offense that turned the ball over 28 times.
The Longhorns run a 4-4 base defense and Eskelsen will anchor the group from his defensive end spot. Stephen Gorzyca is back at defensive tackle. Doss is moving off the line to linebacker. Sam Newmaster and Ryan DeMuri are back in the secondary.
“We’re expecting big things out of those guys,” Duncan said.
Duncan has gone 7-14 in his first two seasons at West after spending the previous 12 years as the head coach at Washington High School. He averaged five wins per season at Washington. The Longhorns closed out last season by winning two of their last three games, including a win over Washington, to qualify for the state playoffs.
“Hopefully we can continue to get better,” Duncan said. “We realize we’re not going to out-athlete anybody. We’ve got to do all of the little things right to be competitive.”
The Longhorns begin the season on Friday at University City before christening the new turf at West’s stadium two weeks later against Rockwood Summit. In between is a game at Fayetteville.
“Hopefully with our experience, we’ll have a good first game and get the ball rolling,” Duncan said. “We’ve taken our lumps the last couple years. We’ve had a great summer and are looking to be highly competitive each week.”