The Goose Creek High School football team is back on the practice field for Jason Winstead’s second spring at the helm.
He said, without hesitation, the Gators will get plenty more done this time around. Teams can have up to 20 practices in May.
“We’re looking for improvement,” said Winstead, whose team finished 4-6 and missed the playoffs in 2018. “It’s the second year in our system. Last (spring) was kind of a mess. Just having a full staff and the kids having a full year under their belt, we expect to be better. We have to be better.”
He’s been encouraged by what he’s seen in the offseason in the weight room and speed training, with the Gators putting more importance on being a better player.
“The kids have responded very well,” Winstead said.
Throwing the majority of the time was a mostly-new experience for the Gators last fall. For years, they had been a power run team out of the triple option.
“We’ve got some experience coming back,” Winstead said.
They’ll build around returning quarterback Emmanuel Mukuamu, a rising senior. He’s put on some good weight and throws it downfield with more authority.
“We’ve got to catch a few more footballs than we did last year but I think he can have a good year,” Winstead said.
He didn’t have the exact stats but figured Mukuamu could have been a 2,000-yard passer if not for dropped balls.
“He understands the offense better,” Winstead said. “We expect a lot more out of him this year. We got to the point where we were running the ball with him a good bit. This year we need to be able to drop back and throw the football. I think he’s going to step up to the challenge.”
Some of the Gators’ other weapons are returning in tailback Maurice Mazyck and wide receivers Damon Mouzon and DJ Matthews, who also plays some at quarterback.
On the offensive front, tackles Deangelo Bright and Rashaun Smith and guard Jayden Johnson are returners. Guard Eddie Loftis was slated to get a lot of reps last season but missed most of the fall with an injury.
“As far as practice is concerned, the kids are moving faster and getting more reps in,” Winstead said. “That’s really going to help. It was hard to get a lot of reps in last year because there was so much teaching them what to do, how to do it and what we expected out of them.”
On the other side of the ball, cornerstones Nyheim Simmons and Quinn Tolbert return at the two inside linebacker spots after leading the team in tackles last season.
Defensive backs Melvin Ravenel, Jekiah Wigfall, Devante Pryor and Jaylin Daniel are returners too.
Last year’s strength, the defensive front, entered spring with the most question marks. Noseguard Symeon Kennedy is the most experienced player returning in that group.
“Everything else up front is up for grabs,” Winstead said.