Departed senior Brock Wright did a lot for the Wildcats. On offense, he ran the dive and pitch in the option, and he caught passes. On defense, he covered as a safety and walked up to play the run like a linebacker.
On special teams, Wright returned punts.
Harmon must pencil a lot of names in those slots this preseason, which means he’s replacing a special player.
Then again, White Plains’ program has progressed in his two-plus years, so it doesn’t rely upon one player to do so much anymore.
“We’ve got more answers at different positions,” he said.
White Plains enters Harmon’s third season with 44 players in grades 9-12, up from the low 30s a year ago and closer to his goal of 45 in grades 10-12. The growth comes despite a dearth of juniors.
Within those numbers are answers for all of the questions left by losing Wright, who did much to help the Wildcats through their first two years under a new coach.
Harmon first must replace Wright’s leadership.
“He was just a good vocal and example leader, just the way he practiced, going hard all the time,” linebacker Tyler “Dirt” Jones said.
Jones and quarterback Konnor Amis look to step in, Amis as the lead-by-example guy. Jones is the vocal guy and “a little crazy,” Harmon said.
The more Jones talks, the more he stokes others — and himself. He once got so fired up at a pep rally that he pulled a belt from a teammate’s waist and used it to make his full-throated, raspy-voiced point.
Harmon said he likes Jones’ fiery approach.
“It’s always appropriate, and it’s never fake,” he said.
As for Wright’s many places among the Xs and Os, Harmon will look to young talents such as freshman Dylan Randall in the slot and C.J. Burns at fullback.
“Dylan Randall is a guy, to me, that you would look at that could do it all,” Harmon said.
Harmon said he also sees potential with Jonathan Bradshaw in the slot and Jones at fullback.
The change in personnel around a veteran quarterback could mean a different balance for White Plains’ offense.
“I think coach Harmon wants to try to pass it a little more this year,” Amis said. “We passed it a lot more in the spring game than we did last year. Hopefully, we’ll get to do that this year, too.”
On defense, Harmon will look to sophomore safety Zach Cunningham, a baseball standout and newcomer to the football team.
“When we first saw him, we put some pressure on him because we kind of immediately thought, ‘That’s going to be our Brock,’” Harmon said.
Bradshaw and Randall also look to play big roles in the Wildcats’ defensive backfield.
As for kick returns, Harmon is looking at Randall to return punts and Burns to return kickoffs.
White Plains looks to continue to improve after going 2-8 in Harmon’s first year and 5-5 in 2009. The Wildcats came one win shy of the playoffs.
“Just make the playoffs and do the best we can,” Amis said. “It’s really the same goal as last year, since we didn’t fulfill it. We’re going to strive even harder this year to make the playoffs.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576.