MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

June 10, 2014

Roughers’ line finding itself, comfort zone

It’s early, and it’s a fresh start where all things are bright and new and enthusiasm blooms.

Buying in comes easy. Rafe Watkins’ offense has the skins to prove it — helping to produce four state championships in Class 5A.

But at Muskogee right now, with an emphasis on the running game shifting the offensive philosophy, its more than the company line.

“We’re seeing it work,” said center Logan Stovall. “Coach Watkins is an old-school, smash-mouth, knock them on their butts type of coach. That’s the fun part of football is hitting someone in the mouth.”

Jason Medrano, the offensive line coach under now four head coaches at Muskogee, senses the difference heading into Summer Pride, which started Monday.

“This is not a knock on Josh (Blankenship, former head coach now quarterbacks coach at the University of Tulsa), it’s just something in the air that as a coach you can sense with the kids,” he said.  “Before, when the line flopped, so did the hole and it confused the backs at times.

“With what we have now, it’s plays our boys already know with a simple terminology of an even-odd numbering system. As far as rules, I don’t have to change a thing. It’s a system that our kids understand and trust.”

It’s also something that fits comfortably with Medrano, who was brought to MHS  by Ron Lancaster, who started a run of three semifinal appearances before leaving after the 2005 season.

“When Ron hired me, he told me Muskogee wasn’t known for skill kids, it was known for running the football,” Medrano said. “And that got us to the semifinals three straight years, so it’s nice that we’re getting back to it. I don’t know if our receivers like it, but scoring touchdowns cures all ills.”

With four returning starters, it’s a line with few questions. Stovall had never played center before last season. Zane Rasmussen became a starter during the season at left guard, Jacolby Anderson manned left tackle and Adonis Cole at left tackle.

“They’ve jelled as good as any unit I’ve had since the 2007 (semifinal) group,” Medrano said. “Logan has really progressed as far as the position goes. He realizes he can lead. He was real strong in that role over the spring and he’s also a coachable kid. Zane came on strong near the end of the year and he’s gotten more aggressive and confident.

“Adonis wrestled (third at state at 285), which is great for a lineman. It develops better foot and hand speed. He’s built for the position, he just needs to get more aggressive. Jacolby, when he gets someone moving, he’s going to roll them back on their rear.”

Even under the old system, the line was starting to jell, Medrano noted.

“It was week 7. I know we got our butts kicked against Jenks but the guys up front made some really good plays against a really good defense,” Medrano said. “And once they saw that, it became fun. We also simplified things at that point.”

Stovall, who made the transition to center after playing JV linebacker and tight end, agrees, and said Medrano should get credit for that.

“I had to learn fast but it was a fun position, and once I got better at the position it was fun and coach Medrano makes it more fun,” he said. “We didn’t know what the coaching change was going to do but we’re happy that it ended up being Watkins and with Medrano still here.”

The lone battle this summer is at right tackle between Bryer Eaton, Hunter Watkins, the son of the head coach, and freshman Chase Gray. Eaton missed part of spring ball, Watkins couldn’t participate due to transfer rules. That opened the door a little for Gray, a kid Medrano is familiar with having coached him in the Indian Nations Football League.

“That’s a kid I’ve groomed since third grade to play that position,” Medrano said. “I’m not opposed to starting a freshman there. I did it with Jeremy Burton.”

Burton, a four-year starter, went on to Louisiana-Monroe.

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