Ranked No. 3 in the preseason Class 4A rankings by Dave Campbell's Texas Football and loaded with an experienced coaching staff and elite talent on defense, Ryan looks to be set up for plenty of success in 2011. Joey Florence
Now, all the Raiders need to do is find someone to run their offense.
Following the departure of offensive coordinator Matt Tittle in early April, Ryan is faced with the task of starting to gear up for the 2011 season without an offensive play caller on staff. To make matters even more complicated, the Raiders may not be able to hire a new coordinator at all due to a hiring freeze in Denton ISD that is preventing head coach Joey Florence from seeking help outside of coaches already in the district.
"We're just taking a wait-and-see type of attitude," Florence said. "That's the way we've handled it all along. We have to hire someone from within the district or on our staff. We didn't have anyone qualified to take it, so we're just waiting."
The offensive coordinator position has been a sort of revolving door at Ryan in recent years. Tittle, a former quarterback at Texas Tech, had been with the Raiders for seven years as an assistant but only took over coordinator duties after the departure of Jared Moffatt after the 2010 season.
Tittle was the sixth offensive coordinator Florence has had in his 11 years as the head coach at Ryan. He left the position to pursue opportunities outside of coaching and does not have another job with a different program.
"He just wanted to pursue some other avenues," Florence said. "We appreciate what he did here last year. Obviously we had a great year, and he was a big part of what we've done."
Normally, filling Tittle's position would be relatively simple.
Ryan is entering the 2011 season as one of the state's most hyped 4A teams after it advanced to the 4A Division I state title game last year. One of the top defensive teams in the state last season, the Raiders are returning a talented crop of players including defensive end Mario Edwards, ranked as the top recruit in the country for the Class of 2012 by ESPN, and linebackers Alex De La Torre and Jordan Richmond.
Offensively, Ryan took a step back last year after the departure of record-setting quarterback Scotty Young, but still averaged 34.3 points per game en route to an undefeated regular season finish and a 15-1 overall record.
On paper, it seems like the ideal situation for an experienced play-caller. Unfortunately for the Raiders, they may not get one.
Due to the recent budget crunch, Florence is currently forbidden from hiring an outside candidate to fill the open position. His current offensive staff is relatively inexperienced and he is firmly against promoting or hiring a candidate for the job that he feels isn't ready.
Instead, Florence said he's just going to wait and hope that things get better within the district
"Hopefully it changes," he said. "We'd like to hire someone, but we've got a plan in place if we can't hire."
That plan includes Florence himself taking over play calling duties - a task that the long time Ryan coach is willing to take on, albeit reluctantly.
Florence comes from an offensive background and called his own players back when he coached at Cooper from 1994-1999. Since taking over at Ryan, though, Florence has let his coordinators take over those duties while focusing primarily on motivation and managing the team.
That arrangement seems to have worked. Since taking over at Ryan, Florence is 124-28 overall and has taken the Raiders to five state titles games in the last decade.
"More than anything else, I'm more apprehensive about changing a system that has worked for us," Florence said. "I've been able to manage more during the game and spend a lot of time with motivation and working with the kids on a daily basis. I'm kind of apprehensive I won't be able to do those things if I'm worried about calling players."
Still, Florence is already falling into that role. He worked with the offense all spring and has already worked up a game plan for the season-opener against Sulphur Springs.
"It's a heck of a lot more work but, at the same time, it was good for me this spring," he said. "I got kind of excited and had a lot of fun out there, but I still think the best thing to do is not mess with the system we've got going."
In the case that Florence does take over as Ryan's play caller next season, don't expect things to be much different. Although he ran the run-based Wing-T at Cooper, he said he remains committed to maintaining the spread offense that has helped the Raiders see so much success in recent years.
"It'll take different forms from year to year - sometimes it'll be heavy run and sometimes it'll be heavy pass - be we're committed to the spread," Florence said. "We'll tweak it again this year, and we'll just try to apply the same system to the talents that our kids have."
MARSHALL MOORE can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .