First-year coach Lance Gary is fitting in nicely as the new head football coach and athletic director for the Gainesville Leopards.

After taking over for departed coach Ricky Lock, who bolted for Gonzales earlier this year, Gary has changed a few offseason philosophies and workout programs, but overall, Gary says not much has changed as the athletes transition from one coach to another.

“It’s been good. The kids have been working hard. I’m proud of them,” Gary said. “Right now, in our offseason period we have 86 kids which is a big deal for me. We’re all working together, we’re not working on anything real specific. I really am pleased because the kids are giving great effort everyday.”

Since the conclusion of the district track meet at Prosper in April, Gary said many of the 86 athletes will begin football activities, while the rest will move to their respective sports.

But Gary hopes that the togetherness in the offseason doesn’t lead to specialization in a specific sport because the hope is to increase numbers in every sport at Gainesville High School.

“At a 3-A school it’s hard to specialize,” Gary said. “I tell those kids, at least once a week, ‘we are not just a football player, a soccer player, a basketball player or a baseball player, we’re Gainesville Leopards, number one.’

“I’m encouraging those kids to play multiple sports. I want as much participation as we can get in every sport. I want us to build our numbers and I think we’ve got a good group of kids here. Discipline is not a problem, and when you have those kids acting right and doing the right things, your numbers, they’ve got to come up now. We’ve got to get our numbers in every sport. We’ve got to increase in football, get more baseball players, basketball and (more) soccer kids. We want them all to play multiple sports.”

While offseason workouts may not have changed too much, there will be one significant change to the Leopard football team in 2010.

The Leopards, which have operated out of the spread for the majority of their offensive plays for many years, will now have a new offensive look in the form of the Wing T, which means the Leopards will be a run-first team.

“We’re not going to run as much spread,” Gary said. “We’re going to be a Wing T team that’s multiple and has the ability to get in some shotgun when we need it. I think it’s fits our kids the best and gives our team the best chance for success at this point in time. It’s something that I know and I believe in it. I think it will be good for us.

“In the Wing T, we try to create blocking advantages up front with our linemen, double teams at the point of attack, better angles for them to get to the second level, linebackers, whatever. Therefore, you don’t have to rely on having big kids up front. You have a wing back, he’s going to line up about one yard outside the tight end. You can utilize him for counters and you can motion him and get him the ball, run reverses with him and get him involved in the passing game along with your tight end. Then you’re going to have the fullback that lines up behind the quarterback, and then you’re going to have an off-set back about right around the outside leg of the outside guard. It’s really a two-back set, but it can be a three-back set by utilizing your wing back, and then you have one receiver split wide.”

While the defensive set, the 3-4, will remain the same, the new offensive set is what Gary said he believes will work best, and with the work out initiative in the offseason, Coach Gary added that he hopes it and the new offensive outlook will give the Leopards a new mentality for 2010.

“Taking the head (coaching) job, you want to do something that you know works, you want to do something that you’re comfortable with and that you know you can teach and that fits your kids,” he said. “What I am bringing in I think fits us right now and where we need to be. I think it’s going to bring a mentality to us that we’re fixing to get after somebody’s tail, that’s a mentality that I want. It doesn’t matter how big they are or who we’re playing, we’re going to get after your tail. That’s my philosophy on it. I think our kids are starting to see that.”

But Gary knows that these changes can’t have success if classroom duties aren’t taken care of first and foremost, which comes first in his eyes.

“Academics are number one,” he said. “I’m starting to see the difference when I check grades (every six weeks). That’s the most important thing, is academics. They’re getting their stuff straight in the classroom and once they do that and they come down here, they’re buying in to what we’re going I think it’s going to be a great deal.”

The Leopards will see a few new opponents in district play after the University Interscholastic League conducted its bi-annual realignment in February.

The Leopards’ football team remains in District 9-3A and joining them are Pilot Point, Aubrey, Argyle, Sanger and Whitesboro.

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