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FOOTBALL: Position battles expected during Permian's spring practices - Odessa American: Oavarsity

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FOOTBALL: Position battles expected during Permian's spring practices

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Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015 10:45 pm

Permian lacked quality depth entering its first football season under head coach Blake Feldt, who in the 2013 preseason had his players train on both sides of the ball in part so the team had its best athletes at each position.

Now, as the Panthers prepare for their third season under Feldt, they have more capable players than spots on the field.

Feldt said a handful of key position battles figure to highlight Permian’s spring practice season, which starts at 4:30 p.m. today at John Wilkins Field on campus. In some cases, Feldt said, even players who started for the 2014 team that won nine games and reached the third round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs will be forced to compete for a spot in the lineup.

“We’re kind of all of a sudden in a position that we haven’t been in since I’ve been here,” Feldt said Saturday. “We’ve got lots of what we think are really good high school football players that are fighting for spots, where at one point we were looking for somebody that we thought could play.”

The Panthers, who are scheduled to hold 18 spring practices leading up to the annual Black-White Spring Game at Ratliff Stadium on May 22, are graduating only three senior starters from last season’s defense. Feldt said many of the returning players are penciled in as 2015 starters, but some have switched positions where there’s a logjam of talent.

Feldt said junior Tommy Taylor, who made 110 tackles at inside linebacker last season, is now an outside linebacker in the Panthers’ 3-4 scheme. He’ll be jockeying for one of two starting spots as part of a group that includes Saul Juarez, Marc Prieto and Isaiah Sarabia, neither of whom has taken a defensive snap at the varsity level.

There’s also a question about who will start at the inside linebacker spot opposite returning leading tackler Joshua Nguyen. Feldt said D.J. Landreth and Deylan Moreno, who have been moved from the outside to the inside, are among the candidates there.

Feldt said junior Robby Washington, one of last year’s starting outside linebackers, now plays safety. He’s bidding to slide into the starting spot previously occupied by senior team captain Taran Butler, as are Braxton Pena and Daelyn Sumuel.

“We think all three of those guys can start at that spot,” Feldt said.

Offensively, Permian is graduating three starting receivers, two starting linemen and starting quarterback Heath Wood. Feldt said senior-to-be Trey Potter, who started games under center as a sophomore and junior, has the first crack at replacing Wood and has been one of the team’s hardest workers during the offseason.

Feldt also praised the offseason work of running back Brandon Bailey, who he called “the best player in West Texas.” Bailey was Permian’s leading offensive player as a junior last season, accounting for 1,621 rushing yards, 206 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns.

The Panthers also have returning playmakers at pass-catching positions such as wide receiver Javorian Miller, tight end Jack Fawcett and slot receivers Fabian Cruz, Dexter Neboh and Kobe Robinson. The diminutive but explosive Robinson was the team’s leading receiver as a sophomore in 2014 with 33 catches for 555 yards and seven TDs.

Right tackle Zane Digby and right guard Jesus Olivares were full-time starters on last year’s offensive line for Permian, which Feldt said is moving Trace Notley from left tackle to center and plugging varsity newcomer Richard Duncan into the left tackle spot. Competing for the left guard position will be Mc Lawson and Jayce Rush, who both saw action last season when Notley was sidelined with a high ankle sprain.

“We’ve got lots of kids coming back that played big roles for us last year,” Feldt said, “so that’s always good.”

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